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Andrew Kasprzak - Hamilton Local Schools

Additional Professor
Dept. of Neurology
Assistant Professor
Dept of Psychiatric and Neurological Rehabilitation
Additional Professor and Head
Dept. of Psychiatric and Neurological Rehabilitation
• (Deemed University)
Bangalore - 560 029
This book is dedicated to
the patients with neurological disabilities
who inspired us to serve them better
First Published 1998
by Department of Psychiatric and Neurological Rehabilitation
National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences
Bangalore- 29
Type Setting & Printed at:
Creative Graphics & Technologies
852, 9th A' Main, Srinagar,B.S.K 1st Stage Bangalore- 50
Ph/Fax : 628119
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a
retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechnical, photocopying, recording and/or otherwise, without the prior written
permission of the editors.
Dr. Michael Barnes, Professor of Neurology, Medical Director, Hunters Moor
Regional Rehabilitation Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
Dr. J. R. Chaudhuri, Consultant Neurologist, Kamaneni Hospital, Hyderabad.
Dr. B. Gardner, Consultant in Spinal Injuries, National Spinal Injuries Centre, Stoke
Mandeville Hospital, Aylesbury, UK.
Dr. M. Gourie-Devi, Professor of Neurology, Director and Vice-Chancellor, National
Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore.
Dr. G. Gururaj, Additional Professor and Head, Department of Epidemiology, National
Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore.
Dr. B. Indira Devi, Assistant Professor, Department of Neurosurgery, National Institute
of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore.
Dr. Subhash Kaul, Associate Professor, Department of Neurology, Nizam's Institute
of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad.
Dr. Anupam Kishore, Junior Resident, Department of Psychiatric and Neurological
Rehabilitation, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore.
Mr. C. Mahesh Kumar, Physiotherapist, Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences,
Dr. B. L. Meti, Additional Professor, Department of Neurophysiology, National Institute
of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore.
Dr.T.Murali, Additional Professor and Head, Department of Psychiatric and
Neurological Rehabilitation, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences,
Dr. S. Nagasubramanyam, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Urology,
St John's Medical College, Bangalore.
Dr. U. Nandakumaran Nair, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation,
Medical College, Calicut.
Dr. K. P. Sivaraman Nair, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatric and
Neurological Rehabilitation, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences,
Dr. H. Pravin Kumar, Senior Resident, Department of Psychiatric and Neurological
Rehabilitation, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore.
Dr. T. R.Raju, Professor and Head, Department of Neurophysiology, National Institute
of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore.
Dr. S. Ramar, Reader, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Madras Medical College
and Research Institute, Chennai
Dr. B. S. Shankaranarayana Rao, Department of Neurophysiology, National Institute
of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore.
Dr. Shobini L Rao, Additional Professor, Department of Clinical Psychology, National
Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore.
Dr. P. Satishchandra, Additional Professor, Department of Neurology, National
Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore.
Dr. Rajendra Sharma, Assistant Director, Department of Rehabilitation, Safdarjang
hospital, New Delhi
Dr. N. Shivashankar, Additional Professor, Department of Speech Pathology and
Audiology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore.
Dr. Bijil Simon, Junior Resident, Department of Psychiatric and Neurological
Rehabilitation, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore.
Dr. R. Singh, Senior Resident, Department of Rehabilitation, Safdarjang hospital, New
Dr. Martin Stefancic, Professor, Rehabilitation Institute, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Dr. A. B. Taly, Additional Professor, Department of Neurology, National Institute of
Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore.
Dr. Anisya Vasanth, Associate Professor, Department of Neurology, National Institute
of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore.
Dr. Maya Thomas, Consultant in rehabilitation, Bangalore.
Dr. M. J. Thomas, Consultant Psychiatrist, Bangalore.
Advances in medicine have led to a significant improvement in the
understanding of pathophysiology of many neurological and neurosurgical
disorders. Improvement in critical care and therapeutics has remarkably
reduced the mortality of several fatal disorders. Much needs to be done
for rehabilitation as many survivors of acute disorders eg. stroke, traumatic
brain injury, spinal cord injury are left with residual deficits. In addition,
several chronic progressive or relapsing diseases eg. parkinsonism,
muscular dystrophies, multiple sclerosis and heredofamilial disorders
produce considerable mothidity and consequently affect functional abilities.
Neurological disorders rank among the commonest causes of permanent
impairment, disabilities and handicap requiring long term care and
rehabilitation measures.
Epidemiological studies are crucial for proper organization and delivery of
health care facilities and information gathered on neurological disabilities is
alarming. Biological research and human studies have shown that plasticity
of nervous system is a reality. The manipulation of internal milieu and external
environment may significantly contribute to recovery, contrary to earlier
belief. Fonnal and informal quantification is important for critical evaluation
of rehabilitation measures. Electrodiagnostic techniques have significantly
added objectivity to measurement in neurology.
Neurological disabilities are diverse and affect several spheres of life eg.
mobility, activities of daily living, sphincter function, cognition and
communication among others. These require joint and coordinated effort
of a multidisciplinary team consisting of physicians, nurses, physical
therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, speech therapists,
orthotists etc. Thus, neurological rehabilitation is a dynamic process. While
general framework of rehabilitation, i.e. providing safety, efficiency and
independence to an individual, is common, the relative emphasis on different
aspects varies according to the disorders eg. cognitive retraining for
traumatic brain injury v/s mobility adds for muscular dystrophy arid changes
with time eg. medical care in acute phase v/s community effort in late
phase. Many patients develop significant complications during rehabilitation
process eg. behavioural problems, spasticity, pain, urinary incontinence
etc. and need specific attention.
Newer developments in biotechnology eg. computers for aphasia therapy
and cognitive retraining, environmental control system and functional
electrical stimulation have given new dimension andexpanded the scope
of neurological rehabilitation. The ultimate objective of the rehabilitation
process is community integration of the disabled. Societal participation is
a key factor in the success of any programme. The concept of
based rehabilitation is evolving and has already madea mark.
This book provides an over view of various aspects of neurological
rehabilitation. Attempts have been made to avoid repetitions and make it
a practical guide for one and all involved in the care of patients with
neurological and neurosurgical disorders.
A large number of acute and chronic neurological disorders cause irreversible
damage to nervous system and lead to significant functional impairment and
disability. The research efforts focussed over many decades on structural,
functional and molecular issues of nervous system and its disorders have fructified
in development of newer therapeutic strategies and measures to limit or prevent
tissue damage leading to reduction in mortality and morbidity rates. Despite these
many notable advances and achievements, considerable proportions of people
with neurological disorders are left with residual deficits, needing acomprehensive
approach to rehabilitation for integration into the society. It is estimated that by
the year 2020, with the projected population of one billion, there will be 30
million people with neurological disorders. Added to this burden is a large segment
of population with traumatic injuries to brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves.
The enormity of the problem of providing neuro rehabilitation services is both a
challenge and an opportunity to all those involved and committed to this task.
The concept of "Neurorehabilitaion" with multi and inter disciplinary dimensions
is relatively new to this country. There are small groups of a few dedicated experts
in India who have initialed programmes. One such nucleus is at the National
Institute of Mental Health and NeuroSciences, Bangalore and! am happy that
Dr. A.B. Taly, Dr K. P. Sivaram Nair and Dr T. Murali are bringing out this
excellent book, a first of its kind in the country. The editors and all the contributors
from India and abroad are to be congratulated for this effort. The contents of the
book reflect the multi-disciplinary approach to Neurorehabilitation and embodies
the crystallised experience of the contributors. I am confident that this book will
stimulate many centres in the country to develop neurorehabilitation services.
Only then the objective of the book would be truly fulfilled.
Dr M. Gourie-Devi
Director & Vice Chancellor
Professor of Neurology
National Institute of Mental
Health and Neuro Sciences
A large number of acute and chronic neurological disorders cause irreversible
damage to nervous system and lead to significant functional impairment and
disability. The research efforts focussed over many decades on structural,
functional and molecular issues of nervous system and its disorders have fructified
in development of newer therapeutic strategies and measures to limit or prevent
tissue damage leading to reduction in mortality and morbidity rates. Despite these
many notable advances and achievements, considerable proportions of people
with neurological disorders are left with residual deficits, needing a comprehensive
approach to rehabilitation for integration into the society. It is estimated that by
the year 2020, with the projected population of one billion, there will be 30
million people with neurological disorders. Added to this burden is a large segment
of population with traumatic injuries to brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves.
The enormity of the problem of providing neuro rehabilitation services is both a
challenge and an opportunity to all those involved and committed to this task.
The concept of "Neurorehabilitaion" with multi and inter disciplinary dimensions
is relatively new to this country. There are small groups of a few dedicated experts
in India who have initialed programmes. One such nucleus is at the National
Institute of Mental Health and NeuroSciences, Bangalore and Jam happy that
Dr. A.B. Taly, Dr K. P. Sivaram Nair and Dr T. Murali are bringing out this
excellent book, a first of its kind in the country. The editors and all the contributors
from India and abroad are to be congratulated for this effort. The contents of the
book reflect the multi-disciplinary approach to Neurorehabilitation and embodies
the crystallised experience of the contributors. Jam confident that this book will
stimulate many centres in the country to develop neurorehabilitation services.
Only then the objective of the book would be truly fulfilled.
Dr M. Gourie-Devi
Director & Vice Chancellor
Professor of Neurology
National Institute of Mental
Health and Neuro Sciences
The editors acknowledge the financial support for this book by the
Rehabilitation Committee, NIMHANS, Bangalore, fourth ACIAN Trust
and 43rd NSI Trust. We thank the staff of the department of Psychiatric
and Neurological Rehabilitation and Department of Neurology for their
support at various stages of the book. The editors are grateful to the
Director/Vice-Chancellor, NIMHANS, Bangalore, India for the constant
encouragement given in this endeavor.
1. Epidemiology of Neurological disabilities. Indian Scenario.
G. Gururaj, M. Gourie-Devi, A.B. Taly, P.Satish Chandra.
2. Neuronal plasticity -A unique property for Neurorehabilitation
B.S.Shankarnaravan Rao, B.L.Meiti, TR.Raju.
3. Neurological rehabilitation: Concepts and Dynamics
J.R. Chaudhuri, A.B. Taly.
4. Quantification in Neurological rehabilitation.
5. Electrophysiology in Restorative Neurology.
A.B. Talv.
6. Where do I go from here? Rehabilitation of a stroke survivor
S.Kaul, C.Mahesh Kumar
7. Traumatic brain injury.
B.Indira Devi
8. Rehabilitation of spinal cord injuries
B.P Gardner
Rehabilitation of patients with Neuromuscular disorders
Anisya Vasanth, M. Gourie-Devj
Cognitive Rehabilitation
ShobiniL. Rao
11. Aphasia Rehabilitation
N. Shivashankar
12. Psycho-social aspects of Neurological rehabilitation.
H. Praveen Kumar, A. Kishore, B. Simon, K. R. S. Nair T Murali.
13. Balance Rehabilitation.
R.Sharma, R Singh.
14. Management of Spasticity.
15. Neurogenic Bladder: Evaluation and management.
K. P. S. Nair S. Nagasubramanyam.
16. Pain relief in Neurorehabilitation.
U.Nanda Kumaran Nair.
17. Possibility of the use of functional electrical stimulation of
extremities in Neurorehabilitation.
M. Stefancic.
18. Integrating traumatic brain injury rehabilitation into
multi!disability community based rehabilitation programmes
Maya Thomas, M.J.Thomas.
Epidemiology of Neurological disorders and consequent disabilities-Indian
scenario: Implications for rehabilitation policies and programmes.
G. Gururaj, M. Gourie-Devi, A. B. Taly, and P. Satishchandra
India with a population of nearly 950million spread over 3287.3 2km is facing a myriad
of social, economical, health and technological problems at the turn of the century and
the beginning of the new millennium. The country's population is expected to touch a
billion mark by the year 2000 AD predominantly comprising of children and young
adults. This unabated phenomenon coupled with a gradual decline of communicable
and infectious diseases, gradual expansion and reforms in health care, technological
advancement in identifying and managing diseases, slow acceptance of preventive
technology, change in socio-economic living standards of people and increasing
coimnitiients by nation1l and international health agencies have contributed to a significant demographic and epidemiological transition. An important contribution of this has
resulted in increase of life expectancy from 32.1 years in 1951 to 60.8 years in 1992,
thus adding a significant proportion of middle aged and elderly into Indian communities" 2•
While the country is still grappling with problems of yester years, the emergence of new
problems have added significant burden on meagerly available health resources.
Hospital and community based research in the last twodecades has brought anumber
of non-communicable diseases to the forefront of health care delivery system. A gradual
decline of communicable diseases has lead to the identification of burden of noncommunicable diseases, among which neurological diseases form an important
Even though neurology has made rapid strides in diagnosis and management of
neurological disorders, the related disciplines of neuroepidemiology and
neurorehabilitation are still in its early stages from a public health point of view in India.
Neurological diseases are charactensed by progressive nature, chronicity, recurrence
and many of them are without specific drug treatment. Consequently significant physical,
mental and cognitive disabilities occur resulting in occupational and social malfunctioning
and problems in reintegration into the society. Many of the disorders are difficult to
identify and manage by routine methods and it is only recently neurological disorders
are begining to be identified as major public health problems5' 6• India with around
700-600 neurologists and 600- 800 neurosurgeons is facing the complex and challenging
task of providing care to a large number of neurological patients coming primarily from
inaccessible rural areas.
to (i) understand the problem of disabilities in India
in the present health and developmental scenario, (ii) highlight the applications of
epidemiology in rehabilitation research and programmes, (iii) understand the
epidemiology of neurological disorders, (iv) assess the magnitude and pattern of
disabilities in selected neurological diseases
deIfyhe need and possible
strategies for neurorehabilitation programmes from an Indian Perj5tFve
India's devolopment and health scenario:
An understanding and examination of the diversity of the situation andexisting resources
are crucial for planning, organising and implementing neurorehabilitation services in
India for cost-effectiveness, acceptability and sustainability. As per the human
development report of 1996, India belongs to the group of low income countries with
a GNP of less than 695 dollars at 1993 level. With a Human Developmenthidex (HDI) of less than 0.500, India is ranked 135th in the HDI rank . The existing situation in
terms of other parameters is shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Health and Development Indicators 1996.
Percentage of urbanization
950 million
Life expectancy at birth
60.7 years
Adult literacy rate
GDP per capita
GNP per capita
Sex ratio (M:F)
$ 300
1.00: 0.98
Population with access to health services
Population with access to safe water
81 %
Population with access to sanitation
Televisions/100 people
An examination of the health situation in the country reveals a rather slow progress over
a period of time. The current birth rate and death rate are 30 and 9 per 1000 population,
respecti-vely. The infant mortality rate is 80 per 1000 live births. The morbidity prevalence
reveals that nearly 64 and 31 per 1000 population in urban and rural India, respectively,
will be suffering from any given sickness at any point of time 8•
In India, 37% of population live below poverty line, only 50% are literate and 72% still
reside in rural areas. The average area covered by a primary health centre is around
143 km2, varying from 37km2 in Kerala, to as high as 661 km2 in Jammu and Kashmir.
The average number of villages covered by a primary health centre is around 26, ranging
from 1.4 in Kerala to 77 in Arunachal Pradesh. The number of registered medical
practitioners and hospitals per 100,000 population is 48 and 16, respectively as on
1992 2 Even though allopathic system has grown phenomenally over a period of time,
ayurvedic, homeopathic and unani practitioners still constitute 36%, 16% and 4%,
respectively in India. it is noteworthy that 57% of total hospitals, 32% of beds and
59% of dispensaries are managed and controlled by private sector 8• Gross disparities
have also been noticed in health sickness and health facilities in urban and ruralareas,
further compounded by socio-cultural practices of communities.
The global and India's pattern of health have undergone dramatic changes since the last
two decades. The emerging non-communicable diseases are expected to contribute
for seven out of every 10 deaths in India by the year 2020. A newconcept of disability
adjusted life years (DALYS) has been evolved to measure the impact of premature
death and disability. The DALY expresses years of life lost to premature death and
years lived with a disability of specified severity and duration. Thus, one DALY is one
year of lost healthy life9.
In India, still 51% of deaths occur due to communicable, maternal and nutritional
deficiencies. Deaths from non-communicable diseases are projected to double from
four million per year to eight million by 2020. The millions of disability adjusted life
years lost during 1990 was 145 and 147 for males and females, respectively, with a
total of 292. The rate of DALYS per 1,000 population was 331 for males and 359 for
females with an average of 344. The DALYS rate per 1,000 population was higher in
younger age groups with a gradual decline during middle ages and an increase again
during elderly years . It is arguedthat health trends in next 25 years will be determined
by ageing of world's population, decline in age specific mortality rates from
communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutritional disorders, spread of HI V/AIDS and
increase in tobacco related mortality.
Table - 2 Burden of diseases in India and World I 990(hundreds of thousands of
DALYS lost).
Males Females
perinatal and
maternal causes
704.4 1477.3 (50.5)
3108.2(47) 3182.7 (46.3)
Non-communicable 578.9
1180.2(40.3) 2234.5 (52.7) 2772.8 (42.5)
267.0 ( 9.2)
2924.4 (100) 5823.4(50.2) 6489.4(45.1)
Epidemiology of disabilities in India:
At global level, the United Nations global survey of 55 countries reveals that the
proportion of disabled vary from as low as 0.2% to 20.9% in different countries. The
survey revealed the obvious lack of standardised methodologies in measuring disability
across countries. It was also observed that disabled persons were more often illiterates,
had higher unemployment rates and were socially isolated. The devastating effects of
disablement and socio-cultural barriers in promoting equal opportunities were the major
impediments in promoting reintegration effort&°.
The 47th round (1991) of National Sample Survey Organization defined disability as
"any restriction or lack of abilities to perform an activity in the manner or within the
range considered normal for human being". Persons with visual, communication (hearing
and/or speech) and locomotor disability were considered physically disabled and included
in the survey. As per the results, it was estimated that there would be nearly 16.2 million
disabled as on 1991 ". Based on these observations, it is estimated that as on January
1997, 17.8 million disabled persons exist in India. About 0.82 millionpersons become
disabled every year. Added to this, an estimated 10 million children with mental retardation
with or without physical disabilities exist I2 Rural areas contribute to a greater extent
compared with urban India. The sex distribution reveals that males outnumber females
in both areas (Rural - 2.3% V/s 1.7%), (Urban - 1.8% V/s 1.4%). As shown in
table 2, locomotor disabilities carry higher prevalence and incidence in rural India
compared with urban India. The prevalence and incidence of visual, hearing and locomotor
disabilities are provided in table 3. An observation from the survey was that the
prevalence of physical disabilities had increased compared with the previous decade'
Table 3.Magnitude of the problem of disabilities in India
Prevalence/i 00,000
Incidence/i 00,000
Visual disability
Physically disabled
Government of Karnataka undertook
a total disability survey during 1991 of the entire
state, based on successful organisation of the pilot study in 1990-91 in four ICDS
Through an intersectoral input, the survey was carried out by door to door
enumeration through grass root functionaries of the health department. Asper the findings,
the total number of disabled people in Karnataka standsat 355,819 or roughly 1%
population of the state. Men and women comprised 58% and 42% in the totalseries.
Among the various categories 58% were orthopaedically handicapped, 14.5%were
hearing impaired, 12.5% were visually impaired and 10.6% were mentally retarded.
Nearly 2% had multiple disabilities. Bangalore urban/rural district's share of totalstate's
disabilities was 9%. Across the districts, it varied from 1% in Kodagu to 10% in Raichur
districts. Nearly 80-85% of disabled people were living in rural parts of the state. The
obvious limitation of this study was that the causation and severity of disability were not
In the survey of disabled persons during 1992-93 in 12 ActionAid supported CBR
projects in India, covering a population of 12,87, 114, it was observed that locomotor
disabilities were detected in 33% of the total disabled persons. Visual, communication
and mental retardation accounted for the remaining disabilities. The prevalence rate of
disabilities was 1.69%, while it was 1.62% for population above 3 years'4. In terms of
technological aid to support daily activities, only 10-20% of disabled people in need of
aid and appliances are able to access them. Reasons are high cost, lack of suitability to
local conditions, difficulty in maintenance and repair, low volume production, lack of
information and socio-cultural bathers and others. Lack of clear-cut policies and research
is another major contributing factor'5 Further, the rejection rate of technical aids is
reportedly between 50-75% 16,17.
The above mentioned landmark surveys highlight the problem of disability in the Indian
context. Overall, it can be summarised that 3-4% of total country's population have
one or more disabilities. Translated to real numbers, this amounts to 30-40 million
people, predominantly living in remote parts of rural India. Further, this may not include
the mild and moderate type of disability in the country as it requires the usage of more
sensitive and specific instruments. It has also been pointed out that only 2-3% of disabled
people have access to meagerly available services'5"6' I7• Futhermore, while 70-80%
of disabled population live in rural areas the services are predominantly urban based.
Role of epidemiology in Neurorehabilitation process:
Epidemiology is the steppingstone for planning, organization, management and evaluation
of health care services. It is an essential tool for provision of services by rationalizing
available resources based on prioritization of health problems. All stages of preventive,
curative and rehabilitative care depend heavily upon epidemiological methods,
techniques and information.
Neuroepidemiology has been defined as "the study of the distribution and dynamics of
neurological diseases in human population and of the factors that affect these
characteristics"8. Epidemiological methods and information has wide variety of uses4'9
and some important applications are summarised in table 4.
Table 4 Scope of Neuroepidemiology
The ultimate aim of neuroepidemiology is to reduce neurological problems and its
consequences in the community by
Studying variation in the occurrence and distribution of neurological diseases in
different communities.
Establishing a community diagnosis of the presence, nature and distribution of
neurological disorders through morbidity and mortality rates along with identifying
high risk population.
Identfying causes of neurological diseases by defining various geographic,
demographic, genetic, environmental and social factors.
Estimating individual risks and chances towards disease occurrence in general or
specified segments of population.
Identifyingand describing various syndromes in the community.
Detecting clinical and subclinical forms of neurological disorders in communities
for early diagnosis through screening mechanisms.
Studying knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and practices of communities towards
neurological problems and to evolve appropriate intervention programmes.
Invetigating epidemics of neurological disorders as and when they occur.
Completing natural history of diseases affecting nervous system.
10. Developing strategies for planning, organizing, implementing, integrating and
evaluating services in communities.
In a very broad sense "Epidemiology helps at developing a framework forunderstanding
the health experience" of communities. It helps in answering specific questions like
"what is the magnitude of neurological diseases and consequent disabilities in the
community?" How can we prevent diseases or improve recovery? Answers to these
questions will direct our specialists and planners to answer the most vital question "What
services are required by patients with these disease(s)?" The information required to
answer these questions in the Indian context is very limited. Our extensive search failed
to bring out any relevant published literature. While the ultimate aim is "prevention or
eradication of diseases" aiming at a 'healthy or disease free' community, the immediate
challenge is to aim at organizing medical and rehabilitation services for people who are
in need of the same. With specific reference to epidemiology of neurological disabilities,
it will enable neurologists, public health planners and communities to maximise the
available resources and plan effective interventions for persons with neurological disorders
and consequent disabilities.
Epidemiology of neurological disorders
Beginning with the first population based epidemiology study in Vellore by Mathai 20, a
handful of studies have been undertaken in India by several researchers in different
parts of the country at different time periods 2127• Extrapolating these findings must be
done with caution due to methodological differences and regional variations in a socioculturally diverse country like India.
The findings from various population based surveys have been summarized in table 5.
As can be seen, the crude prevalence rates of neurological disorders vary from 967 to
3,487 per 100,000 population across the country. As shown in table 5,three of five
studies have reported a prevalence of 3% in general population. Keeping this as an
estimate and the population of a district in Karnataka to be around 2.5 million, it can be
concluded that there would be nearly 7,500 persons with neurological disorders during
a one year period. A gross estimate for the whole country would yield approximately
30 million persons with neurological disorders.
These figures are a rough estimate as it has been arrived at by using crude prevalence
rates from epidemiological surveys in the absence of a national reporting and surveillance
system. An examination of age specific prevalence rates from Bangalore Urban and
Rural Neuroepidemiology ('BURN') study reveals that neurological diseases increase
from I St decade upto 3rd decade, a slight fall between 31-40 years and again increase
steadily from 4th decade onwards 28 The sex specific prevalence rates indicate that
women suffer more from these disorders compared with men. Highest age specific
rates were observed at 60 years and above. Das and Sanyal noticed the prevalence
rates to increase from childhood age to 40 years, slight fall in 41-50 years, an increase
in 5 1-60 years and a fall again during 60+ years 27 They also registered a higher
prevalence among women compared with men.
Table 5 Prevalence of Neurological disorders - Indian scenario
Ptvalence collection
et at
et at
Kuttar Valley
et al
Das etal
Further, the rural-urban differences have not been systematically examined except in
'BURN' study. Strikingly, it was evident that neurological disorders were twice as
frequent in rural areas compared with urban areas28. This has major relevance for
rehabilitation service planning since the neurological services at present are centralized
in urban India, while only 27% of the whole country is urbanized as per last census.
Interestingly, given the fact that rural rates are higher compared with urban areas, the
major bulk of neurological disorders among all age groups are found in rural areas,
which is very vital from neuro-rehabilitation point of view.
An examination of the pattern of neurological disorders also reveal the lack of any
similarities across regions. However, epilepsy and headaches occupy the first or second
place across different places. Subsequently, different disorders occupy various rank
orders. This difference could be due to differences in screening instruments, population
covered across regions and the prevalence rates31. As all these studies are prevalence
studies, disorders more often of an incident nature (except post traumatic sequelae) do
not figure prominently in this list. Ten major neurological disorders as per rank order in
various Indian neuroepidemiological studies are shown in table 6.
Incidence studies of neurological disorders is conspicuously lacking in the whole country
except the one on traumatic brain injuries from Bangalore. The first epidemiological
study on head injuries from Bangalore revealed an incidence rate of 150/100,000 with
a mortality rate of 20/100,000 per year29. This corresponds to about 1.5 million persons
with head injuries seeking care from various health care institutions with about 2,00,000
deaths per year-30. Injuries contributed for 7% of total deaths during 1991. With injuries
to the brain and spinal cord being as frequent as in the West, the morbidity, mortality
and disability due to injuries is a significant burden in India. The exact information on
this is not available for the entire country as all types of injuries are not regularly reported
to central or state health authorities.
Mortality studies are not available from any part of the country. As per health information
of India, 1992, deaths due to disorders of central nervous system constituted 4.4% of
total deaths, an increase from 3.9% in 1987 '.The agewise break up is shown in
table 7. It is noticed that the death rate increase proportionally with age, reaching a
peak after 5th decade. The reported deaths are mainly comprised of meningitis and
paralysis. With the known fact that certain neurological disorders (eg: stroke, Gullian-
Barre syndrome, etc.,) carry high mortality, the reported figures would be a gross
underestimate of the situation. Also, the problems of non-reporting from hospitals,
misclassification, incompleteness, reporting neurological diseases in death certificates
and, inaccurate reporting of deaths occurring at home contribute for under reporting of
neurological deaths, leading to a gross underestimate of the situation.
The first generation neuroepidemiological studies in India have hitherto concentrated
on studying the prevalence of neurological disorders in Indian Communities. Disabilities
arising from the disorders have not been examined comprehensively in these studies.
Even though there are wide differences in prevalence across regions due to differences
in methodological issues, it highlights the need for more uniform data from many more
Table 6 Major Neurological disorders as per rank order in Indian Neuroepidemiological
Urban - Rural
Kuthar Valley
Vascular headache
Peripheral nerve
Mental retardation
Febrile seizures
Spinal cord lesions
Vertebral disease
Mental retardation
Behaviour disorders Cerebrovascular
Speech problems
Mental retardation other extraPoly neuropathy
pyramidal disorders
Febrile convulsions
Deaf Mutism
Kuthar Valley
Paralytic Piomyclitis
Urban — Rural
Facial nerve
Mental retardation
Cerebral Palsy
Peripheral nerve
Movement disorders
Postencephalitic /
Cerebral Palsy
Spinal cord
Meningitis sequelae
Table 7 Deaths due to disorders of central nervous system
1-4 5-14 15-24 25-34 35-44 45-59
centres. At the same time, it has become essential for "second generation
Neuroepidemiological studies", to: study the natural course of neurological diseases at
postdiagnosis, delineate the nature and course of illness, identify consequent disabilities
and their impact on quality of life. An examination of these findings will bring about the
need for manpower development, development of technologies and appropriate solutions
for service delivery.
Disabilities among neurological disorders
Planning comprehensive rehabilitation services either in institutions or communities require
a basic understanding of the extent, nature and severity of various disabilities along with
availability of existing services. In the absence of any longterm followup studies, it
becomes difficult to assess the impact of disabilities on individual or families, either
quantitatively or qualitatively. Hospital based studies reflect the immediate presence of
disabilities at admission or discharge time, which may be at variance with community
level assessment due to changes in the course of illness over a period of time influenced
by the recover' pattern.
Studies on neurological disabilities from hospitals or communities have been totally
lacking in India. The present review is based on some of the studies undertaken by
NIMHANS over a period of time. Efforts to identify published literature from the Indian
region was totally unsuccessful. Wherever information is lacking, an attempt has been
made to examine the issue from Western literature.
A specific neurological disability might arise in many ways from different combinations
of many different impairments and, conversely, a single impairment may lead to or
exert an influence on several activities°2. Neurological disabilities are often found to
have impairment of activities of daily living, cognitive skills, emotional control along with
anumberof other areas. A precise examination of these disabilities is crucial in planning
and organizing neuro-rehabilitation programmes; It is also essential to study the
mechanisms relating to disability occurrence and the complex interactions of social,
cultural, technological and economic factors in developing countries like India.
Epidemiological studies are required to understand the complex interrelations of these
Hewer classifies neurological disorders and disabilities under four categories33 viz.- (i)
Dis-orders causing major physical disability affecting mobility and self care (eg., Stroke,
Head injury, etc.), (ii) Dis-orders causing disturbance of cognition and behaviour (eg.,
Senile Dementia), (iii) Disorders causing pain (eg., Migraine, Trigeninal, Neuralgia, etc.)
and (iv) those causing disturbance of consciousness and function in a episodic nature
(eg., Epilepsy, Migraine). However, majority of neurological disorders overlap across
various categories resulting in multiple functional deficits.
From an epidemiological, public health, and rehabilitation perspective, neurological
disabilities have to be understood and examined in several ways. These could be based
on: (I) Etiology - traumatic, nutritional, metabolic, degenerative, inflammatory, etc., (ii)
Course - progres-sive, stationary relapse, remission, etc., (iii) Onset - acute or chronic,
(iv) Number - solitary or combined, (v) Diagnosis -only neurological disease or presence
of combined conditions and, (vi) Spheres of life or activities affected over a period of
time - daily living activities, emotion, cognition, etc.This type of information is vital to
see (i) how many patients need acute rehabilitation services soon after identification or
discharge of patients from hospitals, (ii) how many need continued care in the long run
and (iii) what type of supportive services are required along with continued neurological
The NIMHANS hospital based studyTM'35 undertaken with the objectives of assessing
nature and quantum of disabilities along with determining its impact on social functioning
on a series of hospitalised subjects revealed interesting findings. 1093 hospitalised
neurological and neurosurgical subjects were evaluated with the 14 item modified
Barthel's Index at discharge . Highest number of subjects were in 16-40 years (45.6%),
followed by 41-60 years (23.0%). Mean age of patients was 31.0 19.7 yrs, with
male to female ratio of 2:1. Infections (20%), neoplasms (17%), vascular conditions
(15%), degenerative casuses (1 3%) and trauma (11%) were the major etiological groups
in this series. Comprehensive disability grading at discharge revealed that 92% (n=1 006)
of individuals had significant disabilities at hospital dishcarge time. An examination of
severity indicated that 30%, 40% and 23% had mild, moderate and severe disabilities,
respectively. Severe disabilities were experienced in the areas of activities of daily living
(82.8%), mobility (83%), bladder-bowel control (44%), cognitive abilities (46.7%)
and communication (47.8%).
At a mean follow-up time of 6 months, 474 individuals (47%) were contacted to evaluate
their health and disability status after discharge. Mild, moderate and severe disabilities
were present in 55%, 18% and 6%, respectively. A change over in disability status was
noticed in all areas: self care (48.3%), mobility (54%), sphincter control (20.3%),
cognition (39.7%) and communication (31.0%).
Futher this study revealed the impact of disabilities on day-to-day activities of the
individual in social, economic and voccational spheres of life. Residual disabilities had
significant impact on social functioning as noticed by the fact that 55% had reduced
social interaction, 79% had decreased ability to discharge family responsibilities, 80%
had lost or changed their previous job and 62% experienced economic loss. At followup time, 79% had residual disabilities, 24% were moderate to severely disabled and
80% required assi4stance for day-to-day living.
In the recently completed Bangalore Urban-Rural Neuroepidemiological survey 26,28,
1,02,557 persons were screened by standardized methods and 3,128 persons were
confirmed to be suffering from one or more neurological disorders. A pilot study on
disability assessment was done by using modified Barthel's index on a 3 point scale and
quartile distribution of scores were obtained for classification of disabilities into severe,
moderate, mild and nil disabilities. A total of 634 individuals (20.0%) had significant
neurological disabilities at community level as shown in table 8. Further, 13% of urban
and 23% of rural persons had disabilities, thus implying that disabilities were nearly 2
times more in rural areas probably influenced by duration of illness, nature of health
care and prevalence of neurological disorders.
a follow-up study of 258 adult neurological patients after 12 months of hospital
discharge at Chandigargh, it was observed that 29% of subjects did not show any
improvement in their status, while 5% had deteriorated37. Assessment was done with
Dysfunction Analysis Questionnaire on an individual basis. Improvement was noticed
significantly in 40%, while 25% improved partially. Poor or no improvement was
recorded in patients with congenital, extra-pyramidal, degenerative, and demyelinating
group of neurological disorders. Psychosocial disfunction was highest in cases with
worsening status. Among psychosocial areas, highest disabilities were noticed in
Table 8 Distribution of disabilities in BURNstudy
22 16(100.0)
3 186(100.0)
Figures in parenthesis indicate percentages.
vocational, followed by social, familial, personal and cognitive areas. Further, elderly
patients had higher disabilities compared with younger subjects.
A number of factors affect recovery (total or partial) among subjects with neurological
disorders. These include age, sex, physiological status, extent of underlying risk factors,
duration of illness, nature of disorder, extent of lesion, nature and presence of comorbidity,
hospitalization process, nature of interventions in hospital or communities, accessibility,
affordability and availability of health care, type of family, support by family members
and others. More important is the level of knowledge - attitude - belief and practices of
communities specially in a country where traditional system of medicine is still accepted
to a greater extent by people. At the same time, at the community level there is a need
to examine the various disabilities from a wider perspective as delivery of rehabilitative
services is an integrated approach depending on the commonalities of disabilities.
In the following sections, an attempt has been made to examine the epidemiological
dimensions of specific neurological disorders and consequent disabilities. The pattern
and extent of disabilities along with their impact on quality of life has been highlighted.
The selection of these conditions is not random, but selective to represent different age
groups, causes and nature of disorders. The disorders covered are epilepsy, poliomyelitis
(children), stroke, head injuries, spinal injuries (adolescents, adults and middle aged
groups), Parkinson's disease and dementia (elderly). The existing lucunae are highlighted
and need for further research is emphasized.
1. Epilepsy:
The most frequent of all neurological registrations in any health care setting is epilepsy.
Among the community based neuroepidemiological studies in India, epilepsy has been
the most commonest one. The prevalence of epilepsy ranges from 200-1200 per 100,000
in India 3I.38 Among children, this varies from 64-177 per 100,000 children. In
Karnataka, the prevalence of active Epilepsy ranges from 400-900 per 100,000 from
four of the studies conducted 39.The incidence rates of Epilepsy are not known in India,
but literature from the West reveal it to be around 20-50 per 100,000 person years 38•
Epilepsy constitute 25-50% of all patients with convulsive disorders. Almost all the
studies have concluded the preponderance of males and younger age groups.
Longitudinal studies from developed countries reveal that nearly 70-80% will become
seizure free over a period of time. The relapse rate after a five year seizure free interval
is about % °. The prevalence of active epilepsy was 882/100,000 in BURN study41.
Prevalence in rural Bangalore was two times high compared to urban areas (1,192 v/s
575, respectively). Specifically, the prevalence rate among children in rural areas was
1,346 while the urban rates were 447/100,000.
In India, epilepsy may not contribute for major disability but carries significant
psychosocial burden for individuals and families. Shorovon 42,in a review of problems
faced by epileptic persons highlight that patients with Epilepsy face considerable pmblems
in the areas of education, occupation, marriage and social relations. Effects of Epilepsy
have also been noticed on learning and progress at school (expectation, intellectual
impairment, learning disability, school absenteeism, poor self image, social isolation,
guilt, overdependance), on women in the areas of marriage (divorce, depression,
childbirth), leisure time activities (sports, travel, etc.), employment (driving, working in
industries) adjustmental problems and other areas. Often these are difficult to quantity
but their impact is considerable.
With regard to work, difficulties are experienced in obtaining-maintaining-progressing
in job by epileptic patients. The PL 480 study on Epilepsy43 observed that there was
very minimal impact on work status among epileptic patients, since only in 9 out of 430
(2%), work status was adversely affected. However, 8% reported deterioration in
their work peiformance. This increased to 25% among those without control of seizures.
From a patient perspective, 6% reported that epilepsy adversely affected their prospects
at work. At the end of 3 years follow-up, nearly 26% had intelligence levels of average
and above, 58% average, low and borderline and mental subnormality was detected in
16% of patients. Among children where the frequency of seizures had not reduced
progress in studies was hampered to a considerable extent.
As early as 1977 the Commission on Epilepsy has stated that the most neglected aspects
of epilepsy are social, psychological and behaviour problems, which are very common.
Levin et al , in a review of psychosocial dimensions of Epilepsy, observed that persons
with epilepsy notice lower rates of marriage, considerable sexual difficulties, greater
unemployment and underemployment, attitude of nonacceptance of self, fear of
disclosure, discriminatory attitude in society along with a wide range ofotherpsychosocial
problems. Psychiatric comorbidity has been noticed significantly among epileptic patients.
Prominent among them are, psychoses (7-10%), anxiety disorders (10-20%), various
personality problems and others like sexual problems, preoccupations, dependency
and lack of stability. Affective disorders are also known to be associated with epilepsy.
The associated comorbidity in terms of depression and suicidal thoughts is also a major
area of concern from a mental health point of view. A number of psychiatric problems
like depression (40-50%), psychosis (2-3%) behavioural problems have been reported.
In a recent large scale European study on Epilepsy and everyday life risks , it was
noticed that there was no significant difference in terms of accidents, number of medical
contacts and others over a period of 12 months. It was noticed that patients with
epilepsy reported slightly more accidents compared with controls (10% v/s 8%).
2. Paralytic poliomyelitis:
Better immunization rates due to national and international commitments have resulted
in a gradual decline of poliomyelitis across India with the introduction of oral polio
vaccine in National Immunization Programmes in 1979. Despite phenomenal increase
in immunization coverage rates, specific geographical pockets are still being identified
in the country. In a selective review of progress in poliomyelitis control in selected
states and union territories of India, the reported incidence of paralytic poliomyelitis has
declined from 5.7/1 00,000 in 1980 to 1/100,000 in 1990 and a further decline is
expected. If Vaccination Programs are not effective, nearly 50,000 children will develop
poliomyelitis every year.
The annual incidence of poliomyelitis in the country was 1.7/1,000 children during 1981-
82 based on sample surveys. The number of new cases of paralytic polio has reduced
from 28,264 in 1987 to about less than 1,000 cases by 1997, thus showing the impact
of universal immunization programme as shown in figure 2. Lameness surveys have
demonstrated that the earlier prevalence rate of 5-6/1,000 has significantly reduced to
1/1,000 after strengthening immunization programmes47. The surveillance on polio has
been further intensified from 1997 with identification of all children with acute flacid
paralysis as an important strategy.
Prevalence of Poliomyelitis in India from neuroepidemiological surveys is observed to
be 218/1,00,000 in Kashmir24, 99/100,000 in Gowribidanur21, 53/100,000 in Bengal27
and 75/100,000 in urban-rural Bangalore 25• Das et al observed that 80% of cases
were below 15 years of age with a slight preponderance of women over men 27• The
age specific rates were 132 and 156 per 100,000 population in 0-5 and 6-10 years
age group, respectively. Paralytic poliomyelitis was detected among 77 subjects (23
urban and 54 rural) in 'BURN' study. Walking even short distances was affected in
60% of children. Daily activities of bathing, dressing and grooming was difficult in nearly
25% of subjects. Nearly 68% could not do any work because of residual paralysis.
3. Traumatic brain injuries:
While developed countries have successfully reduced the burden of Traumatic Brain
Injuries (TBI's) through balanced, realistic and integrated strategies of engineering,
IidhreoCPoIkithU ii !nth.
enforcement and education, countries like India are registering an increase of TBI's
over a period of time. A number of factors like age and sex composition of the population,
socioeconomic standards, technological progress of societies and lack of rehabilitation
programmes play a key role in the nature and burden of TBI's.
Globally, injuries constitute for 5.2% of total deaths and 10-30% of hospital admissions.
Within this group, head injuries contribute for 5-30% of total injuries depending on the
case definition and case ascertainment methods. Nearly 40% of all injury deathsare
related to TBI. The incidence and mortality of TBI as a global estimate is around 200
and 30 per 100,000 per year, respectively. The prevalence of TBI is not known clearly
and it is estimated to be 120/100,000 per year '. Head and spinal cord injuries
contribute for 50% mortality in severe brain injuries It is acknowledged that 100%
severe, 60-80% of moderate and 10% of mild TBI's require long term rehabilitation
services 49. Majority of the studies have shown a male preponderance and affliction of
younger age groups, with road accidents contributing for 60-70% of head injuries. The
case fatality is around 10% across the world. Further, for each fatality, 7-10persons
are hospitalised and 60 persons seek brief emergency care5.
In the epidemiological study of head injuries in Bangalore 29, the incidence, mortality
and case fatality was found to be 150/100,000,20/100,00 and 10%, respectively. The
male to female ratio was 1:0.3. The highest age group was 20-29 years (26.5%),
followed by 30-39 years (19%). Children (<15 years) and elderly constituted 20%
and 5.3% of the total series, respectively. At4 months
post-discharge 415 subjects
were followed-up at home to identify current health status andposttraumatic sequelae52.
It was noticed that nearly 50% of the patients were still in different stages of recovery.
Among the various deficits reported by patients and their families, posttraumatic
headache, anxiety features and memory problems were predominant in25%, 16% and
14%, respectively. Posttraumatic epilepsy was diagnosed in 5% of thesubjects, for
which they were receiving treatment. Locomotor disabilities were reported by 6% of
subjects affecting their mobility and work. Further, 37% of adults and 20% of children
could not attend to work or school, respectively, for more than 60 days, which was
mainly dependant on severity of head injury. Surprisingly, even those with mildinjuries
had severe disabilities in terms of behaviour and memory problems.
With significant improvements in managing patients athospital levels, the survival rates
of head injured persons is significantly increasing in Indiancommunity. Severe disabilities
have been noticed in 3-40% of subjects depending upon severity of injuries and time
frame of follow-up. Several studies have noticedthat 30-40% had returned fully to
their previous jobs and 20-70% were still not working atthe time of follow-up52. Also,
it has to be examined whether the extent and quality of work had deteriorated as
compared to the previous status. Nearly 6% of the patients had incurred an expenditure
of more than Rs. 15,000/- during the period of follow upfor rehabilitation services.
assessed with the help of
In the NIMHANS'S hospital based study34, disabilities were
modified Barthel's Index on a 4 point scale. The areas of measurementsincluded activities
of daily living (bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, sitting, standing, walking and climbing),
bladder and bowel control, vision and hearing, memory, communication and social
interaction, family responsibility and working status. 98 patients wereassessed at hospital
discharge time and 42(43%) were followed at6 months time. The distribution of total
disability at discharge in terms of- severe, moderate and mild was 46%, 30%, 23%,
respectively. Examination at 6 months period revealed the disability distribution to be
5%, 14% and 81% across severe, moderate and mild groups, thus, signifying that the
reduction in severe and moderate cadres was around 70%, while prevalence of mild
disability had increased from 23-81%. Amongthe activities of daily living, nearly 30%
had difficulties in their regular day-to-day activities requiring help and support from
family members. About 5% had difficulty in bladder and bowel control, 25% in vision
and hearing, and 53% reported memory impairments at6 months. The social interaction
was restricted and reduced in nearly 50% of patients. At 6 months follow-up, 14%
could not undertake any family responsibility and 16% had not returned to work.
reported adjustment problems of head injured patients and
their families in a 2 year follow up study at Maclurai. They noticed significant disabilities
Sabeshan and Nataraj
in all areas of family activities on a different scale. The presence of significant
neuropsychological sequelae in 29 of 141 patients at 18 months post-discharge in
Madurai was reported by Natarajan Severe day-to-day adjustment problems were
noticed by patients and family members affecting day-to-dayliving.Traumatic brain
injuries are reaching epidemic proportions in the Indian region. Unless comprehensive
preventive and neurorehabilitation services are planned and implemented, the burden
of this group of neuro disorders will continue to increase significantly30.
4. Spinal cord injuries:
Traumatic Spinal CordInjuries (TSCIs) are a serious condition resulting in severe
disability or death, with survivors facing myriad of health problems and multiple
complications affecting their day to day livin hdanJiteratureon epidemiology of spinal
cord injuries and consequent disabilities is totally lacking,except one study from
Bhubaneshwar, Orissa.A review of literature from around the world reveals that the
incidence of TSCI varies from 9-53 per million per year55. Majority of the studiesmay
not include those spinal cord injury deaths associated with prehospital deaths. Further,
mild to moderate spinal cord injuries may not be identified clearly in thepresence of
polytrauma. Kraus et al, in a study of 18 hospitals in 18 California counties identified
the total incidence as 53.4 per million population, which is much higher than the reported
figures 56• There are only two reported studies from the Asian region. The incidence
rates in Malaysia was 27, in Taiwan it was 56, and in Japan 40 per million
Mortality rates for TSCI vary from 4-17%. The case fatality rates
vary from 5-20% depending upon injury severity and age. The prevalence of SCI
worldwide, is estimated to be around 500 per million population From the available
literature, it is known that majority of the individuals will be in theage group of 20-30
years with a male preponderance (M:F ratio:: 3-4:1). Traffic related injuries were the
primary cause for 50-60% of spinal cord injuries, followed by falls (20-30%), sports
and occupational injuries (5-10%). About 70% new cases of Sd appear in less than
30 years of age.
Persons with SCI experience considerable morbidity due to variedneurological and
other disabilities. Lan et a]57 reported that among hospitalised SCI patients, 36% were
tetraparetic, 33% tetraplegic, 15% paraplegic and 12% paraparetic. Completeparalysis
was noticed in thoracic cord injuries, while incomplete paralysiswas more frequent
among cervical cord injuries. Among newly diagnosed SCIs, lesions in cervical region
contributed for 50% of total cases Complications related to genitourinary system
(25%), cardiovascular complications (24%), respiratory system (14%), septicaemia
(4.5%) and others, were the major problems for continuous and long term management
of individuals with spinal cord injuries.
In a recent medico-social survey of spinal cord injury patients it was noticed that
majority of SCI subjects had serious financial difficulties either through loss ofjobs or
lack of alternative source of income. 42(66%) individuals were totally confined to bed
and resources were unavailable to make any changes in adaptation of home. Urinary
catheters, condom drainage and drugs were totally unavailable. The unmet living needs
in terms of information and referral, skills training,peer counselling, advocacy were
found totally lacking.
'. i i-
for the Mentally
/ Date:
In the only comprehensive study undertaken by the Shanta Memorial Rehabilitation
Centre in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa, the annual incidence of spinal cord injuries was 20
per million population per year for the period 1985-1990 60 The male to female ratio
was 3:2. Nearly 50% of SCI subjects were in 20-40 years. Spinal injurieswith cord
involvement, paraplegia and quadriplegia accounted for 57%, 30% and 12% of total
series. Falls, road accidents and fall of objects were the major underlying causes in
53%. 26% and 12%, respectively. Nearly 62% were admitted through primary health
centres, thus indicating the increasing occurrence of SCI in rural areas. The duration of
hospitalization was nearly 30 days in 67% of subjects, 30-45 days in 22%, 45-60 days
in 5% and, above 60 days in 6% of total series. The case fatality rate was 11% (more
than 50% being quadriplegics). Death rates during admission time was 47%, 7% and
5%, for quadriplegia, paraplegia and suspected cord lesion with spinal injury, respectively.
The average cost of managing SCI persons during hospitalization period ranged from
Rs.4,500 - Rs. 18,000, depending upon the type of care. The study concluded the
obvious lack of facilities in terms of human resources, technology, infrastructure and
others and strongly recommended for setting up of spinal cord injury centres in the state
and rest of the country.
In a review of psycho-social implications after spinal cord injury in India, Chandra
concluded that disabilities lead onto psychological abnormalities, vocational
maladjustments and personality disintegration, thus affecting the overall quality of life61.
5. Cerebrovascular accidents:
Stroke has been identified as a major public health problem in recent decades in India
due to its - (i) increasing incidence, (ii) high mortality, morbidity and disability, (iii)
increasing occurrence due to general increase in prevalence of associated health problems
like hypertension, diabetes, alcoholism, etc., and (iv) an ageing population. Stroke
constitutes 2% of all hospital registrations, 1-5% of total medical admissions and 930% of total neurological admissions 62, CVD's include a wide spectrum of conditions
ranging from transient attacks to recurrent strokes and each diagnostic category has an
independent epidemiological profile.
World over, mortality rate due to stroke is estimated to be 50-100 per 1,00,000
population63 At NIMHANS, the proportional mortality rate from stroke was found to
he 17.2% . In a five year analysis of stroke cases registered at NIMHANS, it was
noticed that TIAS, Ischemic and Haemorrhagic strokes constituted 14.7%, 73% and
12% respectively. Stroke in theyoung (40 years) constituted 28% of total series and
32% of total deaths.The absence of information on incidencepresents lacuna in identifying
the occurrence of annual cases. Worldwide, it is known thatthe incidence of stroke is
around 2/1,000, which means there will be nearly 200 new cases in a population of
100,000 per year . Among them, it is established that 30% will die in first 4 weeks,
30% will recover and 40% will be left with one or more disabilities.
An epidemiological analysis of stroke literature from India reveal that the prevalence of
stroke varies from 44-842/1,00,000 population with a male preponderance
The prevalence of stroke in Kashmir 22, West Bengal 27, Bangalore65 and Bombay23
was 143, 126, 151 and 844 per 100,000 population, respectively. Razdan et al 22 and
Gourie-Devi et al65 noticed an increasing prevalence in age with males. As mentioned
earlier, the studies are incomparable due to differences in methodology and time period
changes. Two important emerging trends noticed are the occurrence of CVDs in the
young65 and increasing occurrence of cerebral venous thrombosis among women 67,
requiring further understanding.
In the NIMHANS hospital based study 34,68 subjects were hospitalised during study
time. An assessment of comprehensive disability atdischarge revealed that 34%, 37%
and 20% had mild, moderate and severe disabilities at discharge time. At 6 months
follow-up time, this had substantially changed to 52%, 15% and 6% across the same
categories, respectively. At hospital discharge time, significant difficulties were
experienced in the areas of activities of daily living (75%), mobility (80%), bladder
control (42%), cognition (57%) and communication (50%). At follow-up time, the
rates were 51%, 47%, 17%, 50% and 35%, respectively across same areas, thus
revealing the persistence of deficits over a period of time.
In the 'BURN' study65 151 subjects of completed stroke were identified, with a mean
duration of>3 years in 47% of subjects. Based on this observation, it is estimated that
nearly 1.5 million persons with completed stroke are likely to be present in India. Furthei;
nearly 1% of elderly were found to be suffering from stroke. Nearly 30% of patients
were younger than <40 years. Prevalence of CVDs was higher in rural areas as
compared to urban areas (61% v/s 39%). An examination of age-specificprevalence
rates indicated that rates increased with age from 42/100,000 among <30 years to
1099 in 71 + age group. 61 % of young stroke subjects had significant disability. Severe,
moderate, mild and no disabilities were present in 8%, 22%, 41% and 29%, respectively.
Severe disabilities were noticed among 13% of urban subjects compared with 3% of
rural residents, while mild disabilities was 50% among rural compared with 30% of
urban subjects. This unexpected gross difference may be related,to anumber of factors
requiring further investigation. Among the various componentsof disabilities, activities
of daily living (bathing, dressing, grooming, mobility) was affected severely and
moderately in 10-20% and 40-50% of subjects. Nearly 35% had difficulties in bladder!
bowel control and required daily support. Severe and moderate disabilitiesrelated to
memory was noticed in 6% and 40%of subjects. Communication and social interaction
was affected in 40-80% of persons at varying levels. Nearly 56% could not continue
with their previous work and 30% worked less than before.
6. Parkinson's disease:
Another major neurological condition which is progressive and of a degenerative nature
affecting the middle aged and elderly is Parkinson's disease (PD). The prevalence of
Parkinson's disease in the studies at Gowribidanur21, Kuthar valley24, Malda27 and
Bombay23 was 7, 14, 16 and 328 (Parsi community) per 100,000, respectively.The
prevalence in the 'BURN' Study was 33/1,00,000 (n=34). An examination of agespecific prevalence rates revealed an increasing occurrencewith age. The rates were
28, 95, 243, 501 and 573 at 31-40, 51-60, 61-70, 71-80 and above 80 years,
respectively. Sex-specific prevalence rates indicated the male and female prevalence
rates to be 83 and 64 per 100,000 population, respectively. Ra.zdan et a124 also noticed
that the prevalence of PD was associated with age, with rates being 134 and 247for
those >50 and >60 years of age. Das and Sanyal from Bengal27 made similar
observations on the association of PD with age and sex. Age-specific prevalence showed
a progressive increase from 86/100,000 in 41-50 years to 128 at 51-60 years and 260
for 60 + years age group. The rates among males and females was 22 and 10 per
100,000 population, respectively.
In the disability assessment of Parkinson's Disease in the pilot work of 'BURN' study,
74% of subjects were experiencing moderate to mild disabilities, and in the remaining
26% activities and partici-pation were not hampered significantly. 63-68% experienced
difficulties in bathing, dressing and mobility. Support from family members was mquired
for eating in 42% of subjects. Bladder! bowel control was a major difficulty in 42% of
subjects. Memory disturbances were moderately experienced in63% of subjects. Social
interaction, family responsibility and working pattern was affected in more than 50% of
subjects. It is known that disabilities increase in severity and extentin PD along with
age and significant numbers have to depend on familymembers or others for day-today living.
7. Dementia:
Population distribution across the globe has revealed that the elderly increas'd from
376 million in 1980 to 590 million by 2000 and then to 976 million by the year 2020.
Developing countries will constitute 70% of world's elderly population68. The
demographic transition in India along with changing life styles and values have brought
geriatric health problems as an important dimension in the reforming health care systems.
With advances in health care technology and decline of communicable diseases, Indian
elderly are experiencing longer life compared with the past. The proportion of elderly
has been increasing from 6.0% in 1980's to 7% in 90's. It is expected to be around 8%
by the turn of the century accounting for 70-80 million elderly in India'2.
A simple definition of Dementia is "global deterioration" of the individuals intellectual,
emotional and cognitive faculties in a state of unimpaired consciousness69. Several
reports have established that I % of those below 65 years, 4-6% of 65 + and nearly
50% of those beyond 85 will be suffering from dementia. Alzheimer's disease
contributing for majority of dementia's has a prevalence of 3-15 per 100 among th
aged 65 years and above, with an incidence rate of 100-1500 subjects per 100,
per year69. Almost all the studies have showed increasing prevalence and incidence
with age and a higher rate among females compared with males
Wadia has reported the prevalence of dementia in India to be varying from 6-10% after
the age of 60 years from data collected through small surveys71. Selectivesurveys of
'elderly' and 'mental health problems of elderly' have examined dementia in the Indian
region. Rao V, studied 150 subjects aged 60 years and above at Madurai for prevalence
of mental health problems 72• 72% and 38% were in 60-70 years (young old) and 70+
(old old) age groups, respectively, with a male to female ratio of 3:1. Dementias were
diagnosed in 20% of subjects. Alzheimer's and multiinfarct dementias constituted 35%
and 65% in the total series. About 67% of elderly had sensory handicap with 63% and
33% having visual and hearing disablities, respectively, and 10% had musculo-skeletal
handicaps. Nearly 15% of 'elderly ill' subjects were either rejected or unwanted by
families. In a geropsychiatric survey by the same authors 4.4% of population was
above 60 years and chronic organic brain syndrome was detected in 10% of this
The prevalence of the condition in general neuroepidemiological surveys is difficult to
estimate. Except the 'BURN' study 26 no other studies have detected dementia in
population based neuroepidemio-logical surveys. Inurban-rural Bangalore, elderly
constituted 5.1 % of total survey population. Prevalence rate of dementia was 12/100,000
in urban and 14/100,000 in rural with a combined rate of 13/100,000. Examination of
age specific prevalence rates revealed the rate to be 114/100,00 in urban and 110/
100.000 in rural areas, thus revealing the fact that nearly I % of elderlysuffer from
dementia. The lower rates from India may be due to lack of specificity of questionnaire
to detect dementia in general population surveys. An overview of disability status in 8
subjects revealed that nearly 50% (n=4) had severe to moderatedifficulties in the areas
of bathing, dressing, grooming and mobility. Five subjects experienced significant
difficulties in walking, 5 subjects had to depend on support of family membersfor
bladder and bowel evacuation. Memory was severely and moderately impairedin 2
and 4 subjects at the time of study. Correspondingly, communication was deranged in
all 6 subjects. Social responsibilities and interaction was affected in 8 personsunder
investigation. None of them were able to carry on with their previous work.
Issues in measuring neurological disabilities
Health needs of disabled persons in families and communities extend beyond medical
diagnosis in terms of the disablement (includes impairmenctivitiesand participation).
With the acknowledgement that most of the neurological disorders are associatedwith
disabilities of various types affecting physical, social, mental and vocational spheresof
an individual's life, identifying these disabilities is crucialfrom a rehabilitation perspective.
Disabilities in neurological diseases vary from acute to chronic, stationary to progressive,
disease to disorder, individual to individual - with immediate to long term impact on
patients and families. The perception and management of these disabilities vary across
regions depending on political, social, economic, cultural and technological growth of
societies, which is extremely diverse in a country like India. With a paradigm shift in
health care from acute to long term care, understanding the consequences of neurological
diseases and its impact on quality of life is very much essential . Since health sector is
a partner in the process of community development, a closer co-operation is vital in
managing chronic neurological patients in communities.
The recent International Classification of Impairments, disabilities and handicaps
(ICIDH2Y75 provides a broader framework for this understanding and a common
language for research, management and social reforms. ICIDH combines the status
and experiences of people in situations or circumstances of their living to examinethe
consequences of health related states. Shifting from an earlier model of disease -
impairment - disability and handicap, it emphasizes to examine the issue in a
multidimensional sphere of impairments - activities - participation limitation - restriction
in the broader context, amidst environmental and contextual factors of an individual.
Due to rapid reforms in health care policies and programmes, assessment and outcome
from neurological diseases has been an important research topic of the west. A number
of scales have been developed to measure impairment, disabilities and handicaps7677.
While controversies exist on the choice of a rehabilitation scale, more often it depends
on what one is looking for and its properties of simplicity, sensitivity, specificity, reliability
and validity in specific sociocultural ethos and living standard.s of a givencommunity. In
the area of neurological disability, it is important to measure cognitive impairment, motor
impairment, focal disability, activities of daily living, quality of life, emotion and social
interaction, family responsibilities, and others. While measuring these areas, it is important
to develop these instruments in the socio-cultural setting where theperson with disabilities
lives, thus enabling professionals to develop culture specific rehabilitative measures. In
India, an attempt is yet to begin in this direction.
There is a need to identify the consequences of neurological diseases for rehabilitation
programs. Using epidemiological data as such has some inherent limitations such as
nonavailability of data on less frequent neurological diseases Also, rehabilitation
needs have not been routinely examined in Indian neuroepidemiologicai studies. Hence,
there is need to generate new information in this regard. However, the problem is further
compounded by lack of suitable methodologies and culture specific instruments. The
next generation of population based neuroepidemiological studies must include these
aspects while, disabilities have to be examined in individual neurological disorders. In
this area, epidemiological meth-odology can contribute for a better understanding of
mechanisms and impact of disablement.
Implications of neuropidemioligical findings for neurorehabilitation services:
With the available evidence till date, it is estimated that nearly 25-30 millionpeople will
be suffering from neurological disorders at any given point of time in India and numbers
are likely to increase in coming years. The studies have identified a wide spectrum of
neurological disorders varying across place, person and time. The total extent, nature
and burden of neurological disabilities is not clearly known, but the available data indicate
its reflection to a greater extent. Population based epidemiological information has a
wide variety of uses as shown in figure 2. Specially for neurorehabilitationservices, it
provides information on the number of people requiring short term and long term care
at the community level. This in itself will propel activities on manpower development,
technology and continued research. Individuals with neurological disorders experience
considerable difficulties in day-to-day activities of living, mobility, speech, hearing,
communication, memory, social interaction, family responsibilities, etc. Further, the
occurrence of disorders in prime and productive age groups place significant burden on
education, work, income, family development, etc. and families have to support the
disabled persons to a greater extent (at a time when family values are changing
In India nearly 3.8% of population is disabled due to one or more health problems.
Translated to ital terms, this amounts to about 38-40 million people requiring rehabilitation
services. The precis contribution of neurological disorders in overall disabilities is not
known and any estimations have to be done cautiously. However 40-50% of disabilities
could be due to neurological disorders (!) with variations across type of disabilities.
Organising rehabilitation services in a country with 500-600 neurologists is a complex
and challenging task. The task is further compounded due to manpower deficiencies in
allied rehabilitation services. Several initiatives have been developed by government of
India in recent years including setting up of the district rehabilitiation centres in selected
areas 78• The emergence of NGO's in rehabilitation during the recent decades is a
noteworthy phenomenon to promote services for handicapped persons. The recent
promulgation of equal opportunities act - 1995 by government of India is also a
committment in the right direction. However, all these efforts in the country indicate the
begining ofa momentum for the rehabilitation movement.
With the known fact that only 3-5% of disabled people receive appropriatecare, the
vast majority hardly receive any inputs for their rehabilitation. Further, the services are
still hospital and urban based, while the extent of urbanisation isonly 28%. With the
shift in focus from institutions to communities beginning around 1950's and 1960's,
community based initiatives have gained momentum across the world. With the
emergence of community based rehabilitation (CBR) services during the last decade, a
paradigm shift has occurred in the issues of disabled people. CBR moves beyond
traditional rehabilitation concepts and ideas, as it aims at providing efforts to CHANGE
community's behaviour to ENABLE community members to have a better understanding
of DISABILITY issues (socio-economic, socio-cultural, psycho-logical, etc.) for
providing a POSITIVE environment (physical, psychological, socio-cultural, economic,
etc.) to IMPROVE the QUALITY of life of the disabled. This is an emerging concept
of CBR, which is FOR and BY people '.
The emerging neurorehabilitation concept in India has to be viewed in a broader
perspective of ongoing epidemiological transition and existing zhabilitationprogrammes.
While the general principles of rehabilitation remain same, the techniques and skills for
individuals, families and communities must be geared to meet the persisting disabilities
among persons with neurological disorders. Then, the obvious question is "How can
people with neurological disabilities be integrated into ongoing or expanding CBR
programmes in India"? This is a debatable question as neurorehabilitation is an emerging
speciality within neurology, while CBR is a becoming a grass root descipline. The
widening gap is accentuated further as the technical manpower for CBR usually relies
upon families and community workers, while, neuro-rehabilitation is being undertaken
by neurologists and allied specialities. "The one and the only way is to take a public
health and epidemiological approach to bridge this gap". At this time, answers have to
obtained from concerned corners.
Agenda for the future:
Planning, organizing and implementing neurorehabilitation services in a country nearing
I billion population characterised by: 37% living below poverty line, 48% being illiterate
and 73% residing in rural areas along with diverse sociocultural factors is a challenging
task for everyone involved in this process. Optimum utilization of limited manpower
expertise and integration with ongoing community based rehabilitation programmes seems
to be the obvious choice. Undoubtedly, health professionals have to work with other
partners and develop an intersectoral approach to meet this challenge. For such
programmes to be effective, cost effectiveness and local technology need to be taken
into account. Community participation is the enabling yardstick for success or failure of
these programmes.
Future areas of research, policy and programme issues has to answer several questions.
Some of these are - (i) the need for more neuroepidemiological studies from different
parts of the country to understand problem, patterns and course of neurological disorders,
(ii) epidemiology apart from estimating prevalence or incidence, should incorporate
disability assessment and its impact on quality of life through longitudinal studies, (iii)
incorporating neurorehabilitation components into community based rehabilitation services
and (iv) studying the feasibility and sustainability of such programmes in the evolving
sociocultural, political and technological progress of the country.
Epidemiological information has great implications and should be viewed beyond 'rates
and ratios'. For those whose heads are counted, answers have to be provided for a
'meaningftil and optimal life'. For professionals and policy makers, it has to 'move from
an academic exercise towards developing sustainable rehabilitation programmes'.
Undoubtedly, such programmes have to be available - accessible - affordable and
applicable to persons with neurological and other disabilities in the entire country.
The final goal is physical, psychological, occupational and social rehabilitation and
reintegration into family and society ofa person with disability consequent to neurological
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Neuronal Plasticity - a unique property for Neurorehabilitation
B.S. Shankaranarayafla Rao, B.L. Meti, T.R. Raju
Neuronal plasticity is an important property of the brain and refers to morphological.
biochemical and physiological changes occurring in both the adult and developing nervous
system. Although neuronal circuitry is capable of undergoing different types of changes,
synaptic changes are the most critical onesbecause they alter communication between
neurons. Synaptic plasticity pertains to changes in the complex synaptic networks of
individual brain circuits in response to various interventions. The capacity of the nervous
of synaptic connectivity needs to be understood. because
system to reorganize the pattern
it can potentially bring about changes in thebehaviour following neural injury.
The potential to enhance neurological recovery by manipulating the biological adaptability
of the brain and spinal cord has become relevant to clinical practice. Medical rehabilitation
routines have begun to apply techniques that can build on the neuronal plasticity to
optimize the recovery process. Inrelation to studies of neurorehabilitation, neuroplasticity
neuronal network modifications, which include shortgenerally refers to use-dependent
term modulations of functions and long-term structural changes. Knowledge
growing information that ranges from the
neuroplasticity is drawn from
cerebral imaging in health and disease.
of developmental neurobiology to functional
Recent progress in our understanding of neuronal plasticityalso confirms that patterns
of neuronal connectivity are not rigid. Merzenich and Kaas' demonstrated that the
adult brains and suggested that the brain is a network
sensory maps can be redrawn in
everybody's attention to the
that is continually remodeling itself. Their findings brought
implied that the adult brain
idea that plasticity occurs in the adult nervous system
hardwired. Cortical
can reorganize itselfin areas that were long thought to be completely
motor and sensory neurons are not permanently fixed in the way they subserve their
changing demands. In the adult
limb functions. On the contrary, they quickly adapt to
and developing animals and in humans the topographic mapsof sensory and motor
neuron al representations are capable of physiological and structural reorganisation'
Morphological plasticity
A. Dendritic plasticity
Dendritic outgrowth in hippocampal and motor cortical neurons in adult mammals is
influenced by various factors such as nutritional status, hormones, aging, ethanolconsumption, brain lesions and injury, social isolation, sensory deprivation, exposure to
complex or enriched environment, training for various tasks and electrical
stimulation.2'3456 It has been shown that restraint stress for 21 days causes a selective
atrophy of apical dendrites of CA3 neurons of hippocampus.7 As a compensatory
mechanism, the density of dendritic spines was increased in theseneurons to overcome
decreased dendritic arborization.8 Interestingly, the stress-induced atrophy of dendrites
was reversed by 45 days of rehabilitation7
Somatosensory cortical pyramidal neurons showed an increase of basal dendritic
branches in kittens after training for shock-avoidancelearning.9 Greenough et al '°
reported that training the rats to reach for food, results in increased
branching of apical
dendrites of layer V pyramidal neurons in the anterior cortical region, which are involved
in sensory and motor innervation of the contralateral forelimb of the rat. Similar changes
have also been observed in layers Il-Ill pyramidal cell basilardendrites in rat motorsomatosensory forelimb cortex." Jones and Schallert'2 demonstrated the use-dependent
dendritic growth in layer V pyramidal neurons of the motor cortex. In addition to the
effect of various environmental factors, the treatment of (-) deprenyl, a selective
monoamine oxidase-B inhibitor resulted in a significant increase in the dendritic
arborization of CA3 hippocampal and layer III prefrontal cortical neurons in monkey
brain 1314
Dendritic outgrowth in adults can also occur by electrical stimulation. Rutledge et al's
observed the additional outgrowth of apical dendrites in the cortex of adult cats after
long-term electrical stimulation applied to the left suprasylvian gyrus. After this period,
it was observed that apical dendrites of layer II and III pyramidal neurons were shown
to have significantly more dendritic branches and spines in the cortex contralateral to
the stimulated side. They interpreted this as evidence that increased use of specific
pathways to and within the cerebral cortex of adult cats can inducepostsynaptic growth. '
Furthermore, self-stimulation rewarding experience for 10 days resulted in an increase
in the dendritic branching and dendritic length in CA3 hippocampal and layer V motor
cortical pyramidal neurons4'5 and such changes were found to be long-lasting.'6
In addition to the dendritic growth, the size of brain regions is known to be altered
significantly by different experiences. For example, Walsh et al observed the medial
area of the hippocampus was significantly thicker in animals reared in complex
environments than those reared in isolation. Rosenzweig'8 also reported that there was
an increase in the size of hippocampus as a consequence of exposure to complex
environment. Recent studies conducted in our laboratory have revealed a significant
increase in the thickness of lacunosum, radiatum and lucidum laminae in the CA3 region
of hippocampus in self-stimulation experienced rats4.
B. Spine plasticity
Dendritic spines are tiny, specialised postsynaptic receptive sites that cover the surface
of many neurons and they serve as major targets for excitatory synaptic input onto
principal neurons in the hippocampus, the neocortex and other brain regions. The density
of dendritic spines over any given length is subjected to wide fluctuation depending on
variety of environmental factors, electrical stimulation of afferent pathways, sensory
deprivation, stress, social isolation, one-trial learning, hibernation, aging, hormones and
In the CA' region of the hippocampus, the dendritic spine density varies by 30% or
more, over a 5 da estrus cycle of the adult female rat.'9 Other studies have shown that
the shape of spines, in particular the length and diameter of the neck changes during the
course of neuronal development,20 and in response to behavioural or environmental
cues such as light, social interaction or exploratory motor activity.2'
Recent studies involving light and confocal microscopic analysis of spines indicate that
excessive synaptic activity leads to the formation of new spines. The increased synaptic
transmission is known to produce new spines, for example, enriched environmental
stimulation22 and exposure to chemical stimuli such as N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA)23
or even to a single experience in the life of a young chick.24 Papa and Segal25 have
found an increase in spine density up to 60%, following enhanced spontaneous activity
in cultured hippocampal neurons. Alterations in spine density were also observed in
various pathological conditions such as brain tumour,26 alcohol consumption,27
undernutrition28 and sleep deprivation. In addition, changes in both $pine density and
the appearance of abnormal spines have been reported in Down's syndrome and mental
Recent studies have thrown more light on the training induced changes in dendritic
spine density in different regions of the brain. Changes in synaptic efficacy may be
accomplished by alterations in synaptic density, which could change the strength of
input to a particular neuron. Chang and Greenoügh32 have shown increases in the
number of shaft and spine synapses, 1 0— 15 mm after induction of long-term potentiation
(LTP), which persist up to 8h. Desmond and Levy33 have also found a significant
increase in the density of spines following LTP in the rat hippocampal dentate gyrus.
We have also demonstrated a significant increase in the number of spines in different
categories of dendrites in hippocampal and motor cortical neurons.3435
C Synaptic plasticity
The synaptic plasticity denotes long-term changes in synaptic potency resulting from
transient changes in synaptic activity. It includes the growth of new synapses or the
activation of previously silent synapses, as well as changes in the efficacy of existing
synapses.36 Synaptic plasticity provides the neural basis for learning and memory. The
pioneering work of Eric Kandel and his colleagues demonstrated a direct link between
synaptic modifiability and behavioural changes.37
The nervous system of mammals retains the ability to modify the number, nature and
level of activity of its synapses throughout the animals' life span.38 Synaptic plasticity is
maximal during development and is expressed after maturity in response to external or
internal perturbations. Numerous examples of synaptic plasticity can be found in the
literature.2' Synaptic density in various regions of the central nervous system (CNS),
including neocortex and hippocampus are altered in different conditions such as changes
in hormonal levels, undernourishment, aging and Alzhimer's disease, exposure to drugs
such as nimodipine, 5-hydroxytryptarnine (5-FIT) receptor agonist and antagonists,
Visual training and cerebral ischemia or lesions (for review see 3, 21).
In addition, alterations in synaptic number, size and shape have also been reported
following a number of manipulations, such as stimulation, LTP and NMDA
administration.39404' Similar synaptic changes have also been noted following behavioural
manipulations such as learning, imprinting, passive avoidance training, and environmental
enrichment.3 Ben-An and Repressa42 reported that brief high frequency stimulation
induces LTP and mossy fiber sprouting in the hippocampus and suggested the usagedependent structural rearrangement of the neural network, a model for plasticity in the
adult nervous system. An increase in the population spikes in dentate gyrus induced by
perforant path stimulation has also been observed on the completion of learning.43. 44
Mitsuno et al45 have reported the training induced potentiation of population spikes in
CA3 neurons of hippocampus occurred with the advance of learning and suggested
that LTP in CA3 neurons induced by learning may be related to memory storage. The
LTP can set in motion a cascade of events that include changes in gene expression,
sprouting of fibers and the establishment of new synaptic contacts.42
Our recent studies have also shown an increase in the number of synapses in lucidum.
radiatum and moleculare layers of CA3 hippocampal region and molecular layer of the
motor cortex following self-stimulation rewarding experience. It has been shown that
LTP can cause structural changes by strengthening the existing synapses or resulting in
the formation of new synapses. Evidence for changes in the number of synapses following
LTP in the hippocampal region was first demonstrated by Lee et al.4 They showed that
LTP induced either in vivo or in vitro led to a rapid increase in the number of synapses.
It is clear from these studies that CNS retains a remarkable ability to modify the number,
morphology and activity of synapses. The capability of synapses to alter their structure
and number in response to physiological usage may underlie or play a critical role in
plastic neurobehavioral processes.
Cytoskeletal plasticity
Experience-dependent structural plasticity is now a well documented phenomenon,
however the central question about how functional demand operates at the cellular
level to influence the expression of cytoskeletal proteins, namely, neurofilaments, still
remains to be answered. Neuronal growth, whether it is dendritic growth or the formation
of new synapses are found to be accompanied by changes in the expression of
cytoskeletal proteins, which are responsible for structural maintenance of the neurons.
Neurofilaments are neuron-specific intermediate filament proteins, which constitute a
major component of the neuronal cytoskeleton and play a critical role in determining
shape and volume of neuronal processes including complex dendritic arborization and
axonal caliber.47 It has been suggested that the concentration of neurofilaments can
serve as indicators for axonal development, neuronal plasticity, neuritic sprouting and
nerve fiber regeneration.48 49 Few studies have also correlated the expression of
neurofilaments and neuronal maturation during development.505
Several studies have shown that under normal conditions the neurofilaments in the
neuronal perikarya and dendrites are non-phosphorylated while in axons they are
phosphorylated.52 Altered expression of neurofilaments following kainic acid induced
seizures53 and in other pathological conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and aging54
has been demonstrated.
Our recent studies have revealed an increased immuno-reactivity for phosphorylated
and non-phosphorylated forms of neurofilaments in self-stimulation experienced rats in
hippocampal and motor cortical pyramidal neurons.3, The increased dendritic
arborization after self-stimulation experience 4,5 was associated with an enhanced
expression of neurofilament proteins. These findings suggest a close relationship between
the expression of cytoskeletal proteins and experience-dependent structural changes.
Neurochemical plasticity
Neurotransmitters are known to play a critical role in the regulation of neuronal
cytoarchitecture. Recent studies have begun to realise that neurotransmitters are not
only involved in information coding but may also play important roles in defining the
structure of circuits in which they participate.56
Various neulDtransmitters such as acetylcholine, noradrenaline, dopamine, gamma-amino
butyric acid (GABA), glutamate, serotonin, somatostatin and neuropeptides are found
to regulate the neuronal structure in the developing and adult nervous system (for review
see 56). The importance of noradrenergic innervation during the development of the
cortex is suggested by the experimental findings, which show that the ocular dominance
shift is abolished when noradrenaline is depleted by 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA).57
Interestingly, the plasticity was restored by mioroinfusion of noradrenaline into the
cortex.57 The depletion of serotonin in developing rat somatosensory cortex has been
shown to delay the barrel formation.5 Furthermore, the rate of maturation of cortical
neurons was dependent on the presence of serotonin59 and noradrenaline.6° Monoamines
and acetyicholine are involved in the formation of specific dendritic morphology,
lamination of cortex or the formation of topographical afferent and efferent projections.6'
The intracellular concentration of dopamine and serotonin has been shown to vary
inversely during the growth of neurons. Several aspects of postnatal striatal development
are altered by the neonatal depletion of dopamine by reserpine or destruction of
dopaminergic afferents by using 6-OHDA. In addition, dopamine and serotonin inhibit
neurite elongation and elevate intracellular calcium when applied directly to neurons in
vitro.62 This may constitute a means of stabilising dendritic growth during synaptogenesis
in vivo. When GABA and its potentiator diazepam were added to growing neurons,
the outgrowth of both the axon and dendrites was suppressed.56 It was observed that
somatostatin enhances the neuritic outgrowth in regenerating neurons.63 Ourrecent
studies have correlated the relationship between increased dopamine metabolism64
and altered dendritic morphology in hippocampal and pre-frontal cortical pyramidal
neurons 13,14 in adult monkeys following chronic (-) deprenyl administration.
Glutamate is the predominant excitatory neurotransmitter plays a critical role in the
morphological changes following LTP Glutamate was also found to specifically affect
the cytoarchitecture of dendrites of hippocampal pyramidal neurons in a gradedmanner,
which suggests that glutamate may be involved in : establishing hippocampal circuitry
during the brain development; maintaining and modifying circuitry in the adult and inducing
neurodegeneration in several disorders including epilepsy, stroke and Alzheimer's
Acetyicholine is known to enhance the neuritic outgrowth and in tuning the nerve growth
cones.65 Acetylcholine esterase (AChE) can also regulate the neuritic outgrowth and
survival of neurons. It has morphogenic and axogenic role in the developing nervous
system.66 Our recent studies have demonstrated an increased AChE activity following
(-) deprenyl administration in hippocampus and pre-frontal cortex which was well
correlated with an increase in the dendritic arborization in CA3 hippocampal and layer
Ill cortical pyramidal neurons in adult monkeys. 13,14
Recently, we have demonstrated alterations in the levels of biogenic amines, amino
acids and AChE activity following self-stimulation67 and this rewarding experience is
known to cause structural changes in hippocampal and motor cortical neurons.4,5 These
results indicate the role of neurotransmitters in altering the morphology of neurons in
adult nervous system. The correlations between neurochemical and structural changes
indicate that neurotransmitters are likely to play important roles in bringing changes in
the adult brain structure for functional adaptation.
Behavioural Plasticity
The importance of experience for the development of behavior and for the maturation
of the central nervous system in normal individuals is widely recognised. Only recently,
however, it has become clear that experience may play an equally important though as
yet poorly defined role in neuropathological development. A growing number of studies
have provided evidence that recovery of function
not necessarily occur Spontaneously hut rather following brain inurv in early Iiti does
depends on the opportunities that the
environment provides
lorstimulation duing the Course of post_openuie development.
The recognition that environmental stimulation may he a
potent factor govci-ning an
organism's capacity to compensate for brain injury raises certain hopes for the
of brain injury and also
poses some basic questions about the mechanisms by which
functions are restored in a damaged nervous systeni.
Landsdell>9 subjected rats to anterior or posteriorcor-tictl ahlations
adults and kept them in eniched environments for 3 months to determineas infants or as
if such rearing
would offset the expected behavioral deficits.
Smith's7° later investigatjo have anal\ sed
the effects of conical lesions in rats raised under impoverished conditions
with enriched environments. Taken together, the two studies provided as colilpared
support for the
idea that eniched reaing conditions
could ameliorate behavioral deficits
following bilateral
cortical lesions performed in weaning rats: later the finding that experience
offset brain
injuries were extended to rats incwTing cortical lesions at birth7' and to
young animals
with subcortical lesions.7273 Beneficial
consequences of environrnenttl complexity have
been most clearly shown in studies in
which brain-injured rats were raised in enriched
environments and then subsequently tested on maze prohlcrns.7
A number of studies on adult
animals, however, pointed to a non-specific function for
the post-operative
sensory environment. Of special interest are the findings of flarrell
et al75 that rats with hypothalamic lesions
recover feeding behaviour more quickl' if
exposed to daily one hour episodes of low-level
electrical stimulation through lesion
electrodes. Likewise, there is evidence that
recovery of visuo-motor functions can he
enhanced by centrally active drugs given postoperatively or between
serially imposed
Recently the neuronal regeneration following
early postnatal olfactory tract transect ion
(OTS) was also studied. It was observed that after 240 days of 0Th. the
tract had regenerated arid the tract fibres had re-established the connections.76
resulted in a recovery of passive avoidance
behaviour aller a period of eight months
following OTS.77 Studies from our laboratory have
also shown that spinal cord ischeinia
induced spinal motor neuron degeneration and locomotor deficits can he
attenuated h
(-)deprenyl.787In addition, transplantation ofembryonic tissues in to lcsioned adult
hippocanipus and substantia nigra resulted in the recovery of functions sLich as learning
and self-stimulation behaviour,
respectively." These studies suggest that neuronal
plasticity constitutes a potential mechanism for the recovery of functions after brain
injury. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that prior self-stimulation experience
facilitated the operant and spatial learning tasks in adult rats.8' In addition, chronic
restraint stress is known to alter the acquisition and retention of spatialmemory task in
Thus, it clearly indicates that a regenerative and continuing mechanism for adaptive
reorganisation of the brain occurs because of the property of neuronal plasticity. This
unique property of the nervous system may be responsible for the recovery of functions
in injury as well as in various neurological disorders. However, the means to manipulate
the promotors and inhibitors of neuronal plasticity are still in early development. Although
single technique for directing cells, their processes, scaffolds in their milieu, their
navigational methods and the usefulness of the synapses they make are still only a
vision, basic research will provide promising plasticity enhancers for clinical trials. As
with the potential mechanisms for restoration of neuromorphology, the functional
effectiveness of any biological manipulation will depend in part on the training strategies
developed by specialists in rehabilitation to optimally induce activity in neuronal circuits.
"Brain is an 'enchanting loom', the threads of the loom can be broken either by internal
perturbations like lesion or by external perturbations like learning, new threads then
form, branch out, and give a different pattern- always shifting, but a meaningful pattern."
Sir Charles S Sherrington (1906).
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: We sincerely thank Dr. Narender K. Dhingra for typing
and critical reading of the manuscript.
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Neurological rehabilitation: Concepts and Dynamics
J. R. Chaudhuri , A. B. Taly
Rehabilitation is a process of active change by which a disabled person acquires and
uses the knowledge and skills necessary for optimum physical, psychological and social
functions. Contrary to the popular image of rehabilitation which suggests psychiatry
based therapy following trauma, neurological rehabilitation is an active process which
seeks to reduce the impact of neurological disabilities on daily life. Neurorehabilitation
is essentially the management of patient with neurological disability and requires active
collaboration from professionals constituting the rehabilitation team and patients.
Neurological disorders account for large proportions of all severe and complex
disabilities and thus neurologists ar expected to play a pivotal role in coordinating the
many processes that constitute rehabilitation2.
Restorative Neurology
Restorative Neurology is a subsepeciality of neurology which deals with techniques
and strategies used to restore a disordered nervous system to a state of optimal function'.
Following an insult, the disordered nervous system recovers to a variable extent.
Functional improvement usually occurs till six months or so and is attributed to various
factors like dendritic srouting, synaptogenesis, restoration of axonal transport,
alternation of neurotransmitters, unmasking alternate pathways. etc4. When natural
recovery slows down, alternate means are sought to restore the functional gains by
integrating pharmacological, orthopaedic, neurosurgical and physical treatment modalities.
Proper quantitative evaluation of neurological deficits and useful application of clinical
neurophysiology are essential for restorative neurology5. Exploiting plasticity of the
nervous system, pharmacological modulations, functional surgery, neural grafting and
genetic engineering are the exciting frontiers currently being explored in modifying the
natural history of the diseases and thus limiting disability6.
Restorative procedures available are many, though most of them have to stand their
usefulness overtime. They include: modification of the input into the spinal cord by
selective lesions of the peripheral nerves or posterior roots, chemically or surgically
performed neurectomjes and rhizotomies, electrical stimulation of nerves, spinal cord.
cerebellum, thalamus and deep brain structures, stereotactive surgical procedures and
functional electical stimulation78. Achievements in restorative neurology are also rooted
in neurobiology. Following quantitative evaluation of impairments and assessing the
disability, the relationship between damaged structure and function ofthe nervous system
can be formulated. Modification of structure requires reconstructive
neurology (i.e.
neurobiological approach) and modification of function may include restorative neurology
(i.e. applied neurophysiology)9. Replacement ofupper limb function, in herniparesis
has been achieved with functional neuromuscular
stimulation (FNS) using sensory
feedback mechanism from tactile sensoiy receptors of glabrous skin and designed artificial
sensors. Improved neural prosthesis and increasing isearch in this directionmay replace
partial motor functions after disease or disability'0
This involves combined and coordinated use of medical, social, educational and
vocational measures to assist disabled individual in regaining highest possible level of
functional abilities.
Nervous system diseases are among the leadingcauses ofdisabilityH and account for
80% of rehabilitation inpatient admissions in United States'2.In a recent prospective
study of 1093 hospitalized neurological and neurosurgical patients evaluated at
NIMHANS, Bangalore, majority had disabilities of varying severity at discharge in
various spheres of life and at 3-6 months post discharge 25% of these patients had
moderate to severe degree of disabilities and required assistance'3. Neurological and
neurosurgical disorders producing disabilities are diverse in nature andrequire input
from several professionals'4.
Wade'5 reported that a population of 2.5 lakhs contained 3500-5000 patients with
neurological disabilities in United Kingdom and the figuremay not be less in our countly.
The enormous patient load with neurological disability speaks for the need for
neurorehabilitatjon services. However, there is a widegap between the burden of
disability and availability of satisfactory rehabilitation services. European Federation of
Neurological Society task force after a questionnaire based study observeda significant
lack of adequate facilities across Europe. Very few countries have any established
network of neurorehabilitation centers with adequately trained physicians, therapists or
nurses'6. In a recently carried out survey during the 4th Annual Conference of the
Indian Academy of Neurology at Bangalore, all the participants (n=98) felt that neurorehabilitation services were essential. However, only 28% of them expressed satisfaction
with the available services. It was suggested that public and patient awareness on the
availability and the benefits of neurorehabilitation services and number of centers with
trained personnel for providing comprehensive care needed to be
Conceptual framework
The first concern of the neurologist when confronted with patients is to establish the
underlying cause by analyzing the symptoms and signs and to seek a pathological
diagnosis. The specific treatment plans are sought to halt or reverse the disease process.
When medical treatment is partially effective or not available, as it is for many diseases,
patients are left with deficits. The World Health Organization (WHO) has put forward
a model ' which divides the consequences of disease into three levels: Impairment.
Disability and Handicap. These are additional to the more well known International
Classification of Diseases (lCD) which includes etiology and pathology. Impairment
refers to the anatomical or physiological loss and really includes most traditional
symptoms and signs such as weakness, ataxia or sensory loss. Disability refers to the
functional consequences of the impairments. For example, weakness, ataxia and sensory
loss can cause inability to run, walk and climb stairs. Handicap refers to the social
consequences of the disability and impairment such as loss of ajob or inability to do
house work, that was once the major role of the patient.
Generally there exists a relationship between the extent of impairment, severity of disability
and the level of handicap, but it is not invariable. Handicap can arise directly from an
impairment, as well as from a disability. For example. a right hemianopia may cause no
disability for a professional driver because it may be fully compensated, yet it may
cause major handicap if it leads to loss of driving license! Loss of a finger may not
affect a labourer yet could devastate a musician! This impairment -disability - handicap
model has few drawbacks. It is not easy to separate these three levels in all settings.
Aphasia may be an impairment or a disability! Wade' suggested that in aphasia, the
language loss is the impairment and poor communication is the disability. This model
also fails to incorporate the psychological consequences of the disease (eg. emotional
and behavioural) and the effects this may have upon disability and handicap.
Assessment refers to the acquisition of information regarding impairment,disability,
handicap, quality of life, prognosis and interventions. Impairment is influenced by many
factors and is directly proportional to the volume, location and number of lesions and
inversely to natural recovery, plasticity and therapeutic efficacy. Impairments result in
disability which may be reversible or irreversible and reflects disturbance at the level of
the individual. Theoretically, disability depends on impairment(s), functions involved,
evolution of diseases and complications, and indirectly on compensation, therapy and
motivation. Handicap represents socio economic consequence of disability and is
estimated as a product of disabilities and socio economic factors '.
Evaluation of impairment depends on neurological examination and detection of abnormal
signs and symptoms. Presence of a sign may decide the diagnosis, but the intensity of
signs acquires importance for prognosis. Thus neurological examination in a quantitative
way is crucial. Unfortunately, such measurements are not always possible or reliable,
e.g. briskness of muscle stretch reflexes, though a common neurological sign, is not yet
scored in a uniform way. Some signs, e.g. muscle power (MRC grade), and spasticity
can be quantitated. Whenever possible, direct measurements can
be performed and expressed in physical units. Often time required to perform a task
e.g. walking 10 meters or climbing 4 stairs can be used to quantify impairment. The
real problem in clinical assessment is that only a few methods have been evaluated and
recognized. To cope with the problem of interrater reliability, video recording of patients
is becoming increasingly popular.
Disability is appreciated by the way a patient performs composite activities and
responsibilities, that are generally accepted as essential for every day life. The ICIDH
recognized the potential disabilities in the category of behaviour. communication, personal
care, locomotion, domestic activities, dexterity and specific situations including bowel
and bladder functions. The phrase used to describe the overall level of composite
activity in day to day life is referred to as "Activities of Daily Living" (ADL). Several
self care related disability scales are available to quantitate disability and to function as
an important tool in neurologic rehabilitation studies. Most of these scales include 3,4
or 7 levels for the degree of dependency for each item of disability. Commonly used
levels include "independent", "needs assistance" (which again can be minimum, moderate
or maximum assist) and "dependent". Discussion pertaining to the details of these
scales is exhaustive and beyond the scope of this write up. Bitrthel Index (BI), Functional
independence Measure (FIM) and Functional Assessment Measure (FAM) are the
most popular. widely used scales and are better standardized than the rest'2. interrater
reliability for these scales is good. The FIM detects the severity of disability among the
patients with neurologic disorder, correlates with the burden of care required and
contributes usefully to responsiveness21.
Handicap related to neurologic disease has received less attention than impairments
and disabilities. The World Health Organization Handicap Scale uses eight gradesto
describe the difference between individual's performance or status and what that person
expects of himself or herself or of those in asimilar situation. The domains assessed are
orientation and interaction with surroundings, physical independence in ADL. mobility.
occupation. social integration and economic self sufficiency. The reliability of this scale
needs validation 2
Quality of life (QOL) measures use the patient's perspective to assess domains
include physical, mental, social and general health. These measures are meant toevaluate
the overall impact of a disease and its treatment. Components of QOLdomains include
physical health consisting of mobility, ADL. pain, impairmentsand disability, mental
health including emotional and cognitive functioning, social well beingand general health
which includes medical symptoms, fatigue, sleep difficulty, life satisfaction, health
perceptions and distresses and overall quality oflife.
The development of clinically relevant measures of complex, integratedfunctional
performance has been a great challenge for rehabilitation specialist. Neurological
rehabilitation team should thrive to know whether what they do for the patientsis worth
or not.
Rehabilitation probably starts as soon as the patient is admitted to the hospital. Focus
of medical attention is on reducing impairment and preventing complications.
Rehabilitation measures include passive range of movements at all joints, useof splints
to prevent early contractures, frequent change of postures to prevent pressure sores
and respiratory physiotherapy to facilitate drainage of secretion. Prophylaxisfor deep
venous thrombosis may reduce incidence of embolism. All these measures aim to
prevent further complications which may aggravate disability and require prolong
hospitalization. After stabilization in the "acute" care, the patientis usually referred to
the "subacute" set up. The patient is evaluated in the neurorehabjlitatjon units,
improvements are quantified, disabilities are established, goals are defined and programme
for rehabilitation is outlined. Relatives and care givers are interviewed, theirexpectations
and problems are assessed and primary counselling is done. Manypatients make
significant recovery and are thus discharged from neurological wards and home
programmes are encouraged when required. Patients with significant disability are
transferred to neurorehabilitation ward for inpatient care. Aims of rehabilitationduring
this stage are to promote intrinsic recovery, teach athptive strategies, facilitate interaction
with surroundings and encourage reentry in community This period is devoted to
reassessment, planning of short term and long term goals, scheduling programmes
involving physiotherapy, occupational therapy evaluation of bowel and bladder
functioning among others and intervention. Symptomatic medications and modification
of treatment are also done during this phase. Weekly assessments are done by the
team, goals are modified, programmes are changed if required. Late phase of
rehabilitation is most crucial and focusses on community reintegration2223.
The rehabilitation process involves "team effort". In neurological rehabilitation, the
team is composed of a physician, nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech
therapist, recreational therapist, neuropsychologist, dietitian, orthotist and social worker.
Each member of the team has specific goal but all of them work in the same direction ie.
for optimizing functional recovery.
Physician: The primary role of the neurologist is to use experience and knowledge
regarding neurologic recovery to help and direct the rehabilitation team. Physician is
also involved with the medical issues relating to underlying disease, DVT prophylaxis,
bladder evaluation and care, bowel care, treatment of infections, sleep disorders,
depression and others. Physician helps to predict and prevent impending complications
and provides information about prognosis. Neurologist is likely to review the original
diagnosis regularly and intervene as situation demands. Drug requirements are seldom
static and modern advances in investigations and therapeutics can radically alter
Rehabilitation Nurse: Patients admitted to rehabilitation wards often have contractures,
spasticity, pressure sores, urinary catheter, irregular bowel function, nasogastric feeding
tubes and varying treatment schedules. All of them require utmost nursing care. The
nurse's role is to oversee the rehabilitation programme for anindividual patient from
the medical and surgical
beginning to disposal. Nurse is responsible for delivering
and acts as a liaison between the team members and patient's family. The
nurse is integral in discharge planning, working with social workers and family. She
ensures proper skin care, supervises bladder and bowel programmes and encourages
patients to practice the skills learned in therapy sessions in the ward and daily life.
Rehabilitation nursing focuses on health and well being andthe importance of self care,
independence and safety
Physical Therapist: Over 80% of patients in rehabilitation practice have problems
regarding mobility and transfers. Physical therapist is primarily involved with gross
motorcontrol, strengthening of muscles, impmving endurance and in optimizing mobility
skills. The therapist evaluates sitting and standing balance, transfers, walking and wheel
chair propulsion. Physiotherapist initiates the gait training and when applicable suggests
assist ive devices for mobility. Families are integratedinto the rehabilitation process at
the therapy level to work with the patients on these skills in anticipation of their returning
home. They give advise regarding structural modifications (e.g. ramp in place of stair.
fixing grab bars in toilet, widening of doors, etc.) in home. Optimal management of
differs from the more common field of
neurological disability with physical therapy
orthopaedic trauma. Ultrasound and short wave, hydrotherapy accupunture. laser
therapy. transcutaneOus nerve stimulation and functional electrical stimulation are also
used by the physiotherapists.
Occupational Therapist: Activities of daily living are variably affected in disabled
in upper limbs but do badly in self care activities
patients. They may have noimal power
owing to their poor truncal balance, incoordination, cognitive problems. motivation or
"dependency" on care givers. Occupational therapist works primarily on improving
and strength, truncal balance and
fine motor skills, upper extremity range of motion
grooming and toilet use. In
activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, feeding,
suitable patients higher level skills such as cooking, house making may also be addressed.
Occupational therapist also assesses upper limb functions and advises regarding splinting
or orthosis when required. Theyalso make home visits and recommended environmental
changes to suite disabled individuals.
has a wide spectrum and is a major disability
Speech Therapist: Language dysfunction
among stroke victims and to acertain extent in head injured individuals. This impairs
communication and causes frustration. Many patientsalso have dysarthria. swallowing
difficulty, orolingual apraxia and nasogastric tube. The piimaiy role of speech therapist
is to evaluate and treat disorders oflanguage. communication and swallowing. When
aphasia or dysarthria are present, attempts are made to establish reliable communication
system. Bed side swallowing test and video tluoroscopy are carried out to evaluate
dysphagia. Patients are then taught
compensatory swallowing techniques to minimize
the risk of aspiration.
clinical Psychologist . Cognitive
impairments, behavioural problems such as
depression, agitation, apathy and violence are common in patients with head injury.
stroke, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. These factors along with amotivation interfere
with therapy and evaluation. Clinical
psychologist along with speech therapist evaluates
patients cognitive functions, assesses them withspecific neuropsychological tests and
plays an important part in cognitive retraining. They help the family to adjust emotionally
to chronic disability and play a crucial role in community reintegration and vocational
Social Worker. Disability and consequent handicap tiy to drift the
patient from main
stream of the society. Rehabilitation ultimately aims to integrate the disabled patient
back into the family and society. Social workerplays key role in identifying the conimunity
resources available to patient and family. This may involve arrangement of funds for
orthotic and mobility devices, outpatient visits and home therapy services by various
therapists. They help the patient to overcome handicap by discussing about vocational
training and providing financial help. They are also expected to look-after
and insurance matters of the patient.
Recreational Therapist: Recreation is essential for total well being of
healthy and
disabled individuals alike. It helps the patient to decrease frustrations and boredom and
binds the disabled to the family. Recreational therapist tries to organize and generate
activities in wards like singing, playing indoorgames, enacting a drama and engaging
them in arts and crafts activities etc. Recreational
therapist helps to reintegrate the
patient into the community through a programme ofcommunity outings e.g. shopping,
dining and interacting with others. Socialization is thusencouraged because outings are
typically done in groups.
Dietitian: Inadequate nutrition. hypoproteinemia and obesity are common
among the
patients with disabilities and proper nutrition is essential for recovery. Many of theni
are unable to consume normal food due to dysphagia. Dietitian supervises the dietary
schedules, prescribes appropriate diets as required and trains the care givers. The
dietitian works with speech therapist and occupational therapist in arranging an
appropriate diet based on the patient's swallowing and self feeding abilities.
Orthotist: Many patients benefit from orthotic devices for mobility and self care, while
waiting for natural recovery, e.g. cane for hemiplegics, ankle foot orthoses for foot
drop, walkers for paraplegics etc. The orthotist's role inrehabilitation programme
involves working with physical and occupational therapist to evaluate patients for upper
and lower extremity orthosis. If needed, orthosis are custom fit to meet the patient's
functional requirements. Orthotic devices provide comfort and safety to patients and
help to prevent deformities.
Other professionals may also be consulted by the rehabilitation team when required.
Ophthalmologist who may help in the treatment of coexisting eye problemsof the disabled
like cataract, diabetic retinopathy, tarsorrhaphy for facial palsy and surgical correction
of ptosis. Audiologist helps in assessment of hearing impairment and provide hearing
aids and along with speech therapists may impart communication training. Plastic
surgeons may help in pressure sore care and urologists may guide for bladder
management. Vocational counselors, biomedical engineersand biomedical statisticians
are also consulted from time to time when required'
Neurological disabilities vary widely between patients and hence services need to be
individualized. Patients with spinal lesions may have significant mobility and sphincter
disturbances while cognitive and communication spheres are normal. Hence focus in
such patients is on locomotor rehabilitation and urodynamic assessment and
appropriate bowel and bladder management programmes, while psychological
counsellingniay be enough for his secondary depression if any. On the other hand head
injury patients may require series of cognitive retraining sessions while most patients
may not require locomotor training. Table I shows differential needs of the patients in
various disability spheres.
Comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation is rather expensiveand therefore optimally utilized.
Patients admitted to the rehabilitation service must be able to tolerate at least three
hours of therapy a day and have rehabilitation needs in at least twoof the following
areas: nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy 2•
Table I: Differential needs
Communication Speech therapy
Head Spinal cord Neuromuscular
Injuiy injuiy
++ +
Social counsellor
members of the rehabilitation team set both short and long term rehabilitation
goals for
each patient within theirdiscipline. An individualized
rehabilitation programme is designed
to meet these goals and discharge date is set accordingly. Following linear approach
traditionally, several disciplines work on the same patient, butfrom within their own
professional disciplines and working practice. Theteam meets weekly (Team rounds)
and discusses about individual patient. Goals are revised as the patient progresses
through the programme. The overlapping
approach is encouraged because most patients
require them. Unnecessary duplications and/or omissionsin treatment are discussed
and inter professional conflicts areresolved, wherever possible.
Problems faced in Neurological rehabilitation arise from two levels -
the individual
patient and underlying organization of services, and medical complications seen during
neurological rehabilitation. Wide vaiety of neurological diseases and variable disabilities
need high level of care. This is compounded with
enormous load of disabling neurological
diseases in the community. Range of deficits vary, may be system specific, local or
diffue, and may affect central and peripheral nervous system " ' Family
and society
adds up and influence the decisions variably 27.
Organization of neurological rehabilitation involves large number of people. The team
members come from various disciplines29' 30 Often integration of their services may
retard the individual's growth. The conflicts, though normal and necessary for team
development frequently impair team functioning when they come repeatedly with no
resolution. Complacency sets in and it may be detrimental. Due to progressive natural
history of many degenerating neurological diseases dissatisfactionbuilds up among the
team members and create frustration. Medical problems in neurorehabilitation are
common and under-tcognized. Fiquency varies according to patient's profile. disability.
length of stay. disease severity and age. Medical complicationscontribute significantly
to the cost of treatment, morbidity, loss of therapy time, transfer to acute care set up
and death.
Recommended standards
Recently task force on standards in neurological rehabilitation established European
federation of (EFNS) scientific panel recommended minimum standards for the
prevention of neurological disability including access to health education, genetic
counselling and emergency resources. It has outlined some minimum standards for the
staffing of a neurological rehabilitation set up including training for the neurologist, physician
and other team members. The task force supported a two tier system of
neurorehabilitation services. The local community service should refer complicated
and significantly disabled brain or spinal cord injured patient to the regional specialist
service centres. The regional centre would provide multidisciplinary expertise. wheel
chairs, urological services, aids and equipments including community aids. problems
etc.The task force recognized the limited resources available for neurorehabilitation
and the need for more funds for rehabilitation research. It realized the poorly developed
rehabilitation services in Europe and developing countries and endorsed international
co-operation .
Neurological deficits lead to handicap. Spontaneous recovery, medical rehabilitation
and learning to live with the handicap are key issues in rehabilitation. This coupled with
restorative techniques and reconstruction strategies may complete neurological
rehabilitation. It is easy to manage neurologically disabled patients badly and probably
impossible to do it perfectly. The difficulty arises from varietyof diseases and disability.
need for multifactorial approach and paucity of research. Access to adequate resources
and timely, accurate and relevant information are important for effective
neurological disability.
management of
Wade TD. Neurological Rehabilitation. International Disability Studies 1987: 9:45.
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Dimitrijevic MR. Social and Neurobiological Roots of Restorative Neurology. EB. Coldham
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Dimitrijevic MR. Head injuries and Restorative Neurology. Scand J Rehab Med 1988: 17 : 9.
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MR (eds) Recent Achievements in Restorative Neurology. I.Karger. Basel 1985: I.
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neurological disability among hospitalized patient. Euro J Neurol 1996: 3 : (Suppl 2) 86.
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Wade DT, Langton HR. Functional Abilities after stroke : Measurement, natural history and
prognosis. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 1987; 50: 177.
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An opinion survey. Presented at International Conference on current trends in Psychosocial
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and Handicaps (ICIDH), a manual of classification, WHO Geneva 1980.
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Conference of IAPMR. Jaipur. January 1997.
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Quantification in neurological rehabilitation
S. Ramar
Assessment and quantification of neurological deficits and theirconsequences are an
important aspect of rehabilitation. The quantification is essential for monitoring the
progress of the patient, programme evaluation, quality assurance and improvement of
services. The scales used in measurement should be simple, sensitive, valid, reliable
and accurate. International classification of impairment, disability, handicap was
developed to classify the consequences of the diseases such as the disruption ofdaily
activity and social disadvantages that accompany illness1.
It is any loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or
function. As a result of impairment, them is functional limitation
resulting in partial (or)
total inability to perform motor, sensoiy and mental functions within a range and manner
of which a human being is normally capable. Impairment is dividedinto: (1) Physical (2)
Intellectual and psychological and (3) Generalised and other.Physical Impairment refers
to impairment of physical function or structure. It is divided in to aural impairment in
relation to auditory sensitivity, language impairment in relation to language function and
speech, ocular impairment in relation to visual acuity, visceral impairment in relationto
bladder, bowel, sexual and mastication & swallowing functions, skeletal impairment in
relation to head & trunk regions, mechanical & motor impairments of limbs and
deficiencies of limbs and disfiguring impairment in relation to head, trunk and limbs.
Intellectual and Psychological impairment refers to disturbance infunction in relation to
intelligence, memory, thinking, consciousness and wakefulness,perception and attention,
emotive and volitional functions and behaviour.
Quantification of impairment
The neurological impairment iS related to the site and size of thelesion. Some common
measures used to quantify the different areas of neumlogical impairmentsare as follows2
Consciousness: Glasgow coma scale, Galveston orientation and amnesia test
Cogniijon: Minimental status examination
Memory : Wechsler memory scale, Benton visual retention test and Rivermead
behavioural memory test
Attention : trial making test, visual cancellation test, Wechsler digit span.
Language : Western aphasia battery
Sensorymotor: Medical research council grading (table 1), modified Ashworth grade
for spasticity (table 2) and Motricity index.
Gait: Dynamic electromyography, kinematics and kinetics.
Balance : Static posturography and dynamic posturography.
There are scales devised for evaluation of impairments in specific disorders. They include
National Institute of Health stroke scale, Expanded Disability Status Scale for multiple
sclerosis, United Parkinson's disease rating scale, Rancho Los Amigos level of cognitive
Table 1 MRC grading of muscle power.
Description of Power
Grade 0
No tension is palpated in the muscle or tendon on maximum
voluntary effort.
Grade 1
Tension is palpated in the muscle (or) tendon but no motion
occurs at the joint on voluntary effort
Grade 2
The part moves a gravity eliminated plane with no added
resistance, on maximum voluntary effort
Grade 3
The part moves against gravity on maximum voluntary effort
Grade 4
The part moves through full range of motion against gravity as
well as against less than moderate resistance on maximum
voluntary effort.
Grade 5
The part moves through full range of motion against gravity
and maximum resistance on repetitive attempt.
Table 2 Modified Ashworth Scale
No increase in muscle tone
Slight increase in muscle tone manifested by a slight catch and affected
part(s) is moved in release or by minimal resistance at the end of ROM
when the affected part(s) is moved in flexion or extension
Slight increase in muscle tone manifested by a catch followed by minimal
resistance throughout the remainder (less than halfT)ofROM
Marked resistance in muscle tone through most of the ROM but affected
part(s) easily moved
Considerable increase in muscle tone and passive movements is difficult
Affected part(s) is rigid in flexion or extension
function for head injury and American Spinal Injury Association neurological and
functional classification for spinal cord injury. 2•
Henry Kessler's Method
This method emphasizes that the function alone represents the true measure of one's
ability or disability. Thus, this method employs evaluation of functions of the upper &
lower extremities, spine and activities of daily living. The functions of upper limb include,
motion, strength and coordination for the arm component and prehension and sensation
for the hand component. Each function is given a score of 100% impairment. The
functional losses of each function of the arm component are telescopically combined by
the formula A+ B( 100- A)/1 00. Similarly the functional loss of hand component is also
arrived using this formula. Finally the functional loss of whole upper limb is arrived at
by combining the arm component and hand component using the same formula.
Evaluation of permanent physical impairment based on the uniform defmitions
notified by Government of India
Though many methods of disability evaluation have evolved, universally acceptable
standard system is yet to be developed. The disability evaluation was based mainly on
methods of individual interest. Invariably an arbitrary score has been given based on
personal assessment of the certifying physician / surgeon. Some times different values
were given for the same patient with the same locomotor disability on different occasions.
Government of India has notified uniform definitions for evaluation of permanent physical
impainnent. Evaluation should be done when the physical condition is stationery after
maximum recovery at the completion of treatment.
Upper Limb
The permanent physical impairment in relation to upper limb is divided into arm component
and hand component. Arm component included active range of movement, power and
coordinated activities.
Active range of movement : The active range of movement is evaluated at shoulder,
elbow and wrist. The movements examined at shoulder include flexion and extension(0-
220 0), abduction and adduction (0-1800) and rotation( 0-180 0). Flexion and
extension (0-1500) and pronation and supination (0-1800) are evaluated at elbow.
The movements measured at wrist joints are palmar and dorsiflexion (0-1600 )and
radial and ulnar deviation (0-550). The percentage of loss of movement is calculated
at each joint and is multiplied by 0.3.The allotted maximum a score for each joint is 30.
The score for the shoulder, elbow and wrist joint is summed up to obtain a score for the
arm component.
Muscle Power: The percentage of loss of power is calculated at shoulder, elbow, and
wrist and is multiplied by 0.3.The allotted maximum a score for each joint is 30. The
score for the shoulder, elbow and wrist joint is summed up to obtain the score for the
arm component.
Coordinated activities: The coordination is measured on a ten-item scale. Each
component has nine points .The activities evaluated are: lifting ovethead objects, removing
and placing at the same place, touching nose with end of extremity, eating Indian style,
combing and platting, ablution (Indian style), putting on shirt, drinking a glass of water,
buttoning, tie nara/ dhoti and writing.
The percentage of loss of a score for active range of movement, power and coordinated
activities for the arm components are combined by using telescopic formula A+B
The Hand component is divided into prehensile function, sensory function and strength.
The percentage of loss towards prehensile function, sensory function and power of
hand is added directly to reach the percentage of loss for hand component.
The percentage of loss of arm component and hand component is combined by telescopic
formula A+ B( 90- A )/90.To this score 4% is added if dominant hand is involved. In
case of deformity, malalignment, abnormal mobility, infection and changes in cosmetic
appearance disability increases by additional 10%.
Lower Limb
Evaluation of permanent physical impairment in relation to lower limb is divided into
mobility component ( range of movement and muscle power) and stability component.
Mobilitvco.mponent: The active ranges of movements at hip, knee, ankle and foot are
measured. The movements examined at hip include flexion - extension (0-140°).
abduction adduction( 0-90°) and rotation ( 0-90°). The flexion and extension are
measured at knee( 0- 125°). At ankle and foot, plantar and dorsiflexion and inversion
(0- 70°) and eversion is checked (0- 60°). The percentage of loss of movement is
calculated for each joint and is multiplied by 0.3. The maximum score for each joint is
30. The score for the hip, knee, ankle & foot is summed up to obtain a value for
mobility loss.
Muscle Power: The muscle power is examined at hip, knee and ankle and foot. The
muscles examined at hip are flexors,extensors,abductors,adductors and rotators. The
percentage of loss of power is calculated to each joint and is multiplied by 0.3. The
allotted maximum score for joint is 30. The score for the hip, knee, and foot is summed
up to obtain muscle score. Both the percentage of loss for active range of movement
and muscle power are combined by a telescopic formula to reach the score for the
mobility component.
Stability : The stability is assessed using a nine-item scale. The activities evaluated are:
inability to walk on plain surface, inability to walk on a slope, inability to climb, inability
to stand on both legs, inability tostand on affected leg, inability to squat, inability to
cross legged, inability to kneel and inability to turn
The percentage score for the mobility and stability components are combined by using
the telescopic formula A +B(90-A)/90 to reach the percentage of permanent physical
and loss of
impairment for lower limb .To this 10% is added for infection, deformity
Evaluation of Upper motor neuron lesion
In evaluation of UIVIN lesions such as monoparesiS,monoplegia, hemiparesis, hemiplegia,
and quadriplegia, the following percentage of
paraparesiS, paraplegia, quadriparesiS
physical impairment is allotted
Monoparesis -25%, Monoplegia - 50%, HemiparesiS - 50%, Paraparesis- 75%,
Paraplegia - 100% ,QuadriparesiS- 100% and quadriplegia -100%.
In evaluation of sensory system, impairment rateof 10% for anaesthesia, hypaesthesia,
paraesthesia for each limb and impairment rate of 25% assigned for involvement of
hand/hands, footlfeet.
In evaluation of speech, the individual is tested by a 100 word text, ability to read,
comprehension when readout, answer question ontext clearly and ability to write a
synopsis. Impairment rate of 25% for mild, 50% for moderate, 75% for severe and
100% for very severe impairment is assigned.
The percentage of impairment for a patient with postpolioresidual paralysis involving
one lower limb is 90%. But the percentageof impairment for both lower limbs following
postpolio residual paralysis is also 90%, and for muscular dystrophy involving both
upper and lower limbs with difficulty to get up from squatting position is only 85.05%!
Thus uniform definitions notified by Governmentof India is endowed with anomalies.
Further, this system has the disadvantage of ceilingthe maximum impairment to 100%.
If the maximum physical impairment is allowed toexceed 100% it will represent the
true magnitude of the resultant disability such as attendant care for mobility and ADL
especially in multiple handicaps.
WHO defines disability in the context of health experience as any restriction or lack
(resulting from an impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner (or) within
the range considered normal for a human being. WHO classified disability in relation to
physical functioning, social functioning and other.
Disability in relation to physical functioning is divided into several subcategories:
Locomotor disabiliiy: It refers to movement disability
Communication disability: It concerns with speaking and listening
Personal care disability: It refers to personal hygiene, dressing, feeding and excretion.
Both,' disposition disability: It refers to domestic disabilities viz., preparing & serving
food, care of dependents and disabilities of body movement viz, gripping and holding.
Dexterity disability: It refers to disability in relation to bodily movement including
manipulative skills and ability to regulate control mechanism.
Behaviour disability It refers to disabilities in reaction and awareness
Situational disability: It refers to dependence and endurance and environmental
disability in relation to tolerance of environmental factors.
Other disabilities: It refers to disabilities of particular skills and other activity restriction.
Based on the progression of the disease the disability also can be divided into:
a. Temporary total disability:-It is the period during which the individual is totally
unable to work.
b. Temporary partial disabiliiy:-It is the period during which the recovery has reached
a stage to begin a gainful employment.
c. Permanent disability:-It is period after the stage of maximum improvement from
any medical treatment and the condition is stationary.
Quantification of Disability
There are several scales that measure disability. The scales are devised for measuring
disability either in specific patient groups or in all clients. Some of the commonly used
scales are Barthel index, Functional independence measure, Rivermead Activity of Daily
living index ,Ranking disability scale, Glasgow outcome scale and disability rating scale.
Functional independence measure
The FIM was introduced in 1986 by the task force to develop a uniform data system
for medical rehabilitation . This is an 18 item ,seven level ordinal scale.The seven levels
of functioning are shown in table 3. The activities scored are:
Selfcare : Eating, grooming ,bathing, upper body dressing ,lower body dressing and
Sphincter control: B ladder management and bowel management.
Mobility: Bed, chair and wheel chair transfer ,toilet transfer, tub/shower transfer
Locomotion . Walking/wheelchairover level ground, stairs
Coinminication : Comprehension and expression
Social cognition: Social interaction , problem solving and memory
The lowest score is 18 and represents total dependence .The highest score is 126 and
represents independent .normal and safe functioning.
It is defined as a disadvantage for a given individual resulting from an impairment or a
disability that limits or prevents fulfilment of a role that is normal depending on age, sex,
social and cultural factors for that individual . Considering a case of post polio residual
paralysis involving both lower limbs, chromatolysis of the anterior horn cell due to polio
virus constitutes the lesion; loss of muscle power and movement constitutes the
impairment: inability to stand, walk and climb constitutes the disability and inability to
attend to the school / work constitutes the handicap . Measurement of handicap in
neurological diseases has received a lower priority than impairment and disability .The
WHO handicap scale has eight graded categories . They describe the differences between
an individual's performance and expectations . The domains assessed are orientation
and interaction with surroundings, independence in ADL, mobility ,occupation , social
integration and economic self sufficiency. The reliability is still not clear.
Quality of Life (QOL)
The QOL measures physical , mental , social and general health using patient's
perceptions. The health related QOL measures currently in use include sickness impact
profile, Functional status questionnaire, Health status questionnaire, Nottingham Health
profile and quality of wellbeing scale. There are several scales for measuring social
adjustment, support, mood and other domains of QOL. The reliability and sensitivity of
these scales need to be established3.
Table 3 Functional Independence measure: Levels of Function
Independent : Another person not required for the activity (No helper)
Complete independence - All taskes described are performed safely without
modifications, assistive devices or aids and within a reasonable time.
Modified independence-The activity involves any one or more of the following:
An assistive device is required, more than a reasonable time is needed, or safety
considerations exist.
Dependent: Another person is required for either supervision or physical assistance
for the activity to be performed, or its is not performed (requires helper)
Modified dependence: Patient expends 50% or more of the effort: The levels of assistance
required are the following:
Supervision or set up - The patient requires no more help than stand assistance,
cueing or coaxing, without physical contact or the helper sets up the items or
applies orthosis
Minimal contact assistance - With physical contact patient requires no more
help than touching and expends 75% or more of the effort
Moderate assistance -The patient requires no more help than touching or expends
50% or more upto 75% of the effort.
Complete dependence: Patient expends less than 50% of the effort: maximal or total
assistance is required, or the activity is not performed: levels of assistance required are
the following
Maximal assistance - The patient expends less than 50% of the effort, but at
least 25%
Total assistance - The patient expends less than 25% of the effort
Quantification is an essential component of the Neurological rehabilitation programme.
This is required for accurate assessment of diseases and their consequences, evaluation
of interventions, communication between different team members and different
rehabilitation teams, legal procedures for compensation and availing social benefits for
disabled. Several accurate and valid scales are available for measuring impairment,
disability and handicap. However there is no single scale suitable for all patients and all
situations..The selection of the scale depends on the nature and etiology of the disability
,purpose of quantification and familiarity of the investigatorwith the scale. The
quantification methods in Neurological rehabilitation need to be constantly evaluated
and refined.
World Health Organisation. WHO International classification of impairments ,disabilities
and handicaps. World Health Organisation, Geneva, 1980.
Wade DT Measurement in Neurological rehabilitation. Oxford university press, Oxford,
Dobkin BH. Neurological rehabilitation. F.A.Davis, Philadelphia 1996:99 - 127.
Neurophysiological methods in Restorative Neurology
A. B. Taly
Rehabilitation in the context of neurological disorders can be viewed from two angles:
(1) Neurological Rehabilitation which involves combined and coordinated use of medical,
social, educational and vocational measures to assist disabled individuals in regaining
highest possible level of functional abilities and (2) Restorative Neurology wherein one
plans active procedures to improve the function of the impaired nervous system through
selective structural or functional modification of abnormal neural control according to
the underlying mechanisms and clinically unrecognized residual function.
Clinical electrophysiology is the best means for objective evaluation of the functional
integ1ty of the nervous system and therefore it has tremendous potential in the practice
of Restorative Neurology. A wide variety of neurophysiological tests applicable to
different parts of the nervous system are now available. Some of these are quafitative
while others are quantitative. Majority of them are routinely practiced in most clinical
Neurophysiological laboratories.'2 These techniques can be used to establish the
diagnosis, localize the precise site of lesion, understand the mechanism of impaired
function, quantitate the deficit responsible for disability, record the residual function,
plan the appropriate therapies and monitor the effect of various therapeutic
interventions.(Tablel ,2). These neurophysiological techniques are also applicable to
Restorative Neurology . Most patients are referred to rehabilitation after complete
clinical and electrophysiological evaluation and therefore routine the performed tests
such as electromyography (EMG), nerve conduction and evoked potential studies are
not described in this chapter. What follows is a brief account of some of the
neurophysiological methods used for evaluation and management of common problems
in neurological rehabilitation.
Table 1: Electrophysiological tests - Central Nervous System
Cerebral cortex
EEG and Quantitative EEG
Functional brain imaging
Cortical stimulation
Sensory evoked potentials
Long loop reflexes (LLR)
Bereitschafts potential
Movement related potential
Brain stem
Auditory evoked potential
Blink teflex
Electro nystagmography
Spinal Cord
Cortical and spinal stimulation
Central EMG
Descending tracts
Audiospinal facilitation
Ascending tracts
Somatosensory evoked potential (SSEP)
Motor neurones
M, F and H study
Inter neurones
Vibration inhibition
"H" reflex recovery curve
Silent period
Sympathetic skin response (SSR)
Table 2 Electrophysiological test - Peripheral Nervous System
Nerve roots
F' wave
H reflex
Motor conduction
Sensory conduction
Peripheral nerves
F, H and SSEP
Sympathetic skin response
Refractory period
Myoneural function
Repetitive nerve stimulation
Single fibre EMG
Stapedius reflex
EMG - Concentric needle
Single fibre
Quantitative EMG
Muscle conduction
Kinesiologic elecromyography
The technique of kinesiologic EMG (KEMG) is a window through which muscle can
be seen alive and in action. It enables one to assess the pattern of muscle response,
onset and cessation of activity, involvement of different muscles in complex and
coordinated movements and level of muscle response in relation to effort, type of muscle
contraction and position ofjoint. Recording of conventional EMG alone does not give
information concerning the strength and type of contraction. Force transducers,
goniometers, photographic precision, accelerometers andmicroswitches is needed for
simultaneous documentation of other data. Instrumentation for KEMG includes surface
or wire electrodes, multichannel amplification and recording system for simultaneous
muscle and other physiologic data2'6. Surface electrodes are more commonly used.
Skin is abraded and cleaned to maximize signal transfer and electrodes are placed
using coupling electrode gel, close together on the muscle to be studiedand parallel to
the direction of muscle fibers. When small, deep or weak muscles need study, flexible
wire electrodes are used. They are also used as a preliminary to research when surface
electrodes have to be applied. Using sterile technique the wire electrodes are inserted
through a hypodermic needle. When the electrodes are appropriately fixed the subject
can move freely without discomfort.
During conventional EMG a raw signal is displayed for visual analysis. However, in
KEMG overall activity of muscle during specific action or task is important and therefore
EMG signal needs special processing by microcomputers. Through a process called
"rectification" both the positive and negative components of the signal appear above
the base line. Another type of circuit provides "integration" of EMG signal through
accumulation of energy on a capacitor. Integrated EMG results from summation of the
area under the curve and can be expressed in units. The signal can also be analyzed for
spectral frequency and displayed in various forms. Because of the variability of the
EMG procedure and anatomy and movements characteristics of muscle it is important
to "normalize" the data for validation of comparison. EMG is initially recorded at
maximum voluntary contraction or at defined submaximal level of contraction. All
subsequent values are then expressed as percentage of this "control" value.2 Due
consideration should be given to instrumentation, equipment and supplies required and
physical set up of the study. Subject's comfort and safety should be ensured. Recording
techniques should be standardized by repeated trials. Raw data should always be
stored for review before rectification, integration or alteration by computers. This will
prevent wrong interpretation of artifacts caused by motion, cable artefact, poor electrode
contact, wire sway, electrode failure or extraneous electrical signal.
When multichannel KEMG data are recorded with electrogoniometer, pressure
transducer, microswitches, accelerometers and other equipments it has several
applications in rehabilitation eg. determining pattern or sequence of EMG activity in
normal and abnormal motion, documentation of altered muscle function in spastic or
weak muscles, evaluation of gait,measurement of strength, endurance and fatigue,
selection of most efficient exercise therapy or biofeedback training, establishment of
the effectiveness of orthotic/prosthetic devices, drugs, restorative strategies and other
therapeutic measures and conducting research in
Muscle strength testing
Quantification of neuromuscular function through measurement of muscle strength is
necessary for maintaining uniformity of data collection, understanding pathophysiology
of disease, proper comparison of various studies and monitoring natural history of the
disease and effect of therapeutic exercises, drugs and rehabilitation measures. Most
clinical studies include manual muscle testing, recording of range of movement at different
joints, documentation of activities of daily living and timed motor function measures.
While these data provide adequate information for clinical use, they do not give objective
measure of muscle strength. Electromyographic techniques such as single fiber EMG,
concentric needle EMG and macro EMG are useful means of assessing only the function
of individual motor units and total electrical strength of muscle. Quantitation of muscle
strength thus requires mechanical devices.7 Many instruments are now available which
can measure muscle strength during isometric (force at constant length) and isokinetic
(force at constant velocity) muscle contractions. An ideal equipment should be economic,
simple to use, adopted for patients with different disabilities and not time consuming. It
should measure maximal and sub maximal strength with precision and have test - retest
reliability. Regular calibration of equipment is necessary for obtaining correct values.
Some of the commonly used equipments are spring balance, cable tensiometer, hand
held dynamometer, myometer and newer dynamometers such as Cybex, Lido and
Kin-com. Each of these systems have certain advantages and limitations and attempts
are being made to improve these techniques.8'9 For accurate measurements standardized
body positions are described. Patient should be comfortable and have adequate fixation
of body segments. Patient needs to understand the technique and should be encouraged
throughout the procedure so as to improve motivation. Test trials are usually necessary
before the measurements. Due consideration should be given to factors like age, gender,
anthropometric data and physiological and psychological status of the patient.
Quantitation of muscle strength has become an integral part of rehabilitation and research
in the field of disorders of motor neurone, peripheral nerve and muscle. However, it is
important to have adequate knowledge of the equipment and the system used, technical
standards and biological variables for proper interpretation of the results.7'9
Evaluation of fatique
Fatigue is an important limiting factor in the rehabilitation. It is defined as a failure of
muscle to produce or maintain initial peak force or torque. It could be due to failure at
one or more sites between the motor cortex and the muscle fibers, eg. there may be
failure of descending voluntary drive to motor neurone pool resulting in "central fatigue",
abnormality of excitation contraction coupling in muscle fibers, inhibitions from periphery
or inefficiency of contractile apparatus. The traditional method of testing fatigue is an
incremental exercise using bicycle ergometry or treadmill. Clinical electrophysiological
techniques can help in documentation and understanding of fatigue phenomenon.
It has been elegantly demonstrated that during increasing muscle contraction there is an
orderly recruitment of motor units, based on their size. Initially there is contraction of
low threshold, "fatigue resistant", slow twitch fibers with a prominent oxidative capacity
and later higher threshold units with fast twitch are involved when more force is
required. 10,11 During sustained or repeated submaximal isometric contraction, contrary
to the expectation, despite fatigue there occurs an increase in integrated EMG amplitude.
In an attempt to maintain the same force more number of units are recruited at increasing
frequency. This depends upon the central drive and is associated with a sense of
increasing effort. Similarly during maximal effort, it is observed that the force declines
over a period of time but EMG activity may remain constant. However, eventually due
to failure of contractile machinery, both the force and EMG activity decrease. Fatiguability
of muscle varies based on its composition and researchers have noted linear as well as
non linear relationship between EMG activity and force. It is however, important to
realize that decrease in voluntary effort may be due to pain, restriction of range of
movement and motivation (psychological). 12 Therefore, it is important to ensure that
all motor units are recruited before making a remark on fatigue. This can be ascertained
by interpolated stimulation technique. When a supramaximal electrical stimulus is given
to a nerve, it can excite all non-refractory muscle fibers and generate maximal force in
a subject who is making only submaximal effort. Interpolation of supramaximal stimuli
will be able to activate unutilized units and increase EMG activity. However, there will
be no change if the subject is making maximal contraction. Thus, the inverse relationship
between the size of the evoked muscle twitch following interpolated stimuli and the
background EMG of voluntary activity provides an estimate the voluntary effort. After
ensuring that the subject is using maximal voluntary effort, endurance and fatigue can
tested. The following methods are currently practiced to assess fatigue. 3-17
Frequency analysis
Electromyographic evidence of fatigue may be demonstrated by frequency analysis of
myoelectric signals. During maximal contraction the interference pattern canbe
"decomposed" and its various components studied. During fatigue there occurs a
reduction in higher frequency range (150 - 300 Hz) and a gradual increase in lower
frequency range (20-40 Hz). This occurs as a result of synchronization, and change in
recruitment pattern, muscle fiber conduction and shape of motor unit potentials. The
shift of median/centroid frequency to lower side during surface EMG is thus a useful
parameter of fatigue measurement in therapeutic sessions involvingmuscle exercise.
Acoustic myography
Recently a technique "acoustic myography" has been used for monitoring fatigue.
Skeletal muscle generates sounds during contraction which can be heard, recorded
and analyzed. It has been observed that there exists a linear relationship between force
of contractions and "Root Mean Square" (RMS) amplitude of sound. Further, acoustic
signal is intrinsic property of muscle and is unaffected by electrical activity. Therefore,
during muscle contraction demonstration of dissociation between electrical and
mechanical events in muscle may help in documentation of fatigue. Bany et a116 recorded
acoustic myography and surface electromyography from biceps muscles in normal
volunteers during isometric contraction using standard phonocardiography. They
observed that at submaximal isometric contraction there was high correlation between
the reduction in force production and RMS amplitude. Simultaneous reduction of force,
RMS amplitude of acoustic myography and EMG may suggest lack of effort while their
dissociation may indicate true fatigue.
Herzog et aF7 used vibromyography (VMG) in healthy subjects usingisometric exercise
of rectus femoris (RF) and vastus lateralis (VL) muscle following fatigue protocol and
observed that it can be a simple method of measuring fatigue. Vibromyography involves
use of an accelerometer to measure lateral oscillations of muscle during contraction and
thereby quantify the mechanical property. The subjects were initially trained to follow
the fatigue protocol on Cybex dynamometer. They were asked to perform 70% of
maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) as long as they could. Fatigue was defined when
they could no longer maintain this and test was terminated when the value fell below
extension movements
50% of MVC. EMG and VMG data were synchronized with knee
and later analyzed for first and last five seconds of the protocol. Power density of raw
EMG revealed that there was a significant fall in EMG and VMG signals. Median
frequency analysis revealed shift of EMG signal to lower side (from 73 to 54 Hz)
throughout the protocol while VMG signal shift occurred rather abruptly (from 40 to
19 Hz for RF) when MVC could not be sustained. Thus, afall of VMG frequency may
indicate fatigue. These results are, however, contrary to the observations on acoustic
myography and cannot be translated for exercise or work place.
Electrical stimulation
Electrical stimulation of muscle at different frequency may help in differentiatingfatigue
due to neuromuscular transmission defect and excitation contraction couplingabnormality.
Edwards suggested that in the former, there occurs a selective decrease in maximal
torque on high frequency stimulationwhile when the excitation contraction coupling is
defective, the force produced at low frequency is comparatively less, despitea normal
EMG signal.
Fatigue is complex and still incompletely understood phenomenon. Measurement of
fatigue is in the phase of evolution. Studies involving NMR spectroscopy, EMG and
force measurement may improve our knowledge. Currently available techniques are
however helpful in optimizing therapeutic exercises and serve as a guidefor preventing
over-work phenomenon.
Human balance is a sensitive and complex process involving detectionof body position,
integration of sensory - motor information and execution of skeletal muscle response.
Sensory input chiefly comes from visual, vestibularand somatosensory systems. Any
mismatch of information causes disturbance of balance and interferes in theindividual's
stance and mobility. Abnormalities of balance pose significant pmblems in rehabilitation
and therefore, quantitation of balance and understanding of compensatory strategies
are vital in management)8"9
The technique of recording balance is referred to as posturography. There are two
types of posturographic recordings:(l) "static" which records swaying during quiet
stance and (2) "dynamic" which assesses sensory control of balance and coordinated
reflex motor responses after platform perturbations.202'
Static Posturography
The equipment essentially consists of a force plate which senses vertical and sometimes
horizontal force exerted by feet on the ground during upright stance. Subject is asked
and in tandem and on one feet at a
to stand with feet at shoulder width apart, together,
time. A computer monitors the force and evaluates amplitude, speed and frequency
power spectrum of sway. Static posturography has been used in monitoring physical
therapy and as a research tool for dizziness, aging, vestibular, cerebellar and toxic
disorders causing imbalance. However, its utility has notbeen proved unequivocally
and it has been replaced by dynamic posturography.22
Dynamic Posturography
For dynamic posturographic instrument, the force plate is mounted on a device that can
translate horizontally and/or rotate about an axis collinear with the ankle. Some platforms
are equipped with specialized visual environments, electromyography and sensory bio
feedback systems. The procedure can be divided into two essential components: (1)
recording responses to brief movements of platform and (2) recording responses in
relation to various sensory inputs, eg. with eyes closedand open or with stationary or
moving visual environment.
Dynamic posturography thus provides valuable objective information about the motor
performance postural movements, symmetry of weight bearing and forces generated
and strategy utilized (ankle/hip) for maintaining stance. Latencyand amplitude of the
response in relation to various stimuli can also be measured. EMG monitoring can
reveal specific muscles which are activated. The subject can also be given feedback
and trained to select appropriate strategies for improving balance.
The technique however has certain limitations. There are only a few types of commerci ally
available posturographic equipments and these too are rather expensive. The information
obtained is not etiologic, pathologic or localization specific. The procedure needs active
participation and cooperation of the patient forreliable results. However, it has a high
detection rate for CNS lesion and holds promise forresearch.22
Gait analysis
Human walking is the most common of all the movements and locomotor disability is a
universal phenomenon in physical rehabilitation. Analysis and understandingof normal
and abnormal gait thus becomes very important in neuro rehabilitation 23-25 There are
two methods of gait analysis: (1) Observational and(2) Quantitative.
Observational gait analysis
This was developed at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital, Los Angeles for achieving greater
precision of gait description and consists of recording events occurring at joints and
adjacent sections. The procedure requires several hours, causes inconvenience to the
patient and is unreliable for quantitation. Therefore, most laboratories now use
commercially available instruments for quantitative analysis.
Quantitative gait analysis
Walking, being a complex motion, needs analysis of several factors. Essential components
of quantitative analysis are: (1) time distance measurement, (2) kinematic factors, (3)
kinetic factors, (4) electromyography and (5) metabolic factors. what follows is a brief
account of human gait analysis.
Time distance measurement
Foot switches are used for studying walking speed, step frequency, step length, the
duration of the stance phase and the pattern of footlfloor contact. The foot switch is a
flexible insole that can be fitted into a shoe or taped on to the subjects foot. It contains
compression sensors under the areas of the heel, 5th metatarsal head, 1st metatarsal
head and great toe. These foot switches can be used to define stride timing, EMG
features, electrogoniometric observations and force data during gait cycle. Almost
every gait variable alters with a change in walking speed and therefore analysis of data
is relevant only when considered in relation to walking speed. Documentation of
treatment effects using time - distance measurements provides useful information
concerning the patients walking ability and various components and phases of gait cycle
eg. swing and stance phase, stride and step length and stride and step time for each
extremity. However, time distance walking is only an end product of a complicated
motion pattern. It neither explains gait pattern nor distinguishes between the primary
gait problem and compensatory strategy used.24
Kinematic studies
Kinematic study records movement of the body, body segment or between body
segments in different planes and thus involves analysis of motion. This can be performed
by photographic and goniometric techniques. (a) photographic techniques: In interrupted
light photography, (stroboscopy) the subject with lights attached to the body walks
across a darkened room in front of the still camera with a rotating shutter. The
photographs are taken at 30 times/sec and shown in one picture. (b) High speed
motion picture film or cinephotography can also be used. It exposes 50 frames/second.
Advantages of this cinephotography are that no apparatus is attached to the patient,
multiple measurement can be obtained in the same session, EMG may be superimposed
and recordings from both legs can be made out at the same time. (c) Currently TV
devices requiring fast computers and large memories but with inferior resolution have
replaced this method and (d) Goniometric technique : Electrogoniometers are devices
applied on the exoskeleton structure of the subject. They describe the position of one
body segment relative to another. These are inexpensive, easy to apply and the signal
is immediately available for analysis. These electrogoniometers do not give absolute
angles. Goniometers are commonly used to study kneejoint movement. In Polarized
light goniometry, the subject is illuminated by beams of light; when the beam is reflected
by a marker on the subject, this is detected by photodiodes. For accurate analysis of
data, proper placement of markers is essential.
Kinetic studies
Kinetic studies concern the causes of the motion that is the ground reaction of external
forces and the internal forces within thejoints. (1) Ground reaction forces : According
to Newton's third law of motion, the ground or floor reaction force is equal in magnitude
and opposite in direction to the force that the body applies to the ground through the
foot.The ground reaction forces (vertical,.horizontal and mediolateral forces) directed
reflect the accelerations of the body, a key tothe study of human locomotion. The
vertical floor reaction force varies above and below the body weight because of vertical
upward and downward movement of the center of gravity. Transducers are used which
change the force into an electrical signal which in turn can be processed and studied.
The widely used force plate with piezo electric force transducers is capable of measuring
very rapid changes of forces. It also measures center of pressure under the foot. For
proper interpretation of data it is important that the plate is hidden, as otherwise there
may be "targeting" for plate. Numerous repetitions are required for analysis. (2) Internal
Forces : Determination of 'loads' (or forces) acting on ajoint in normal or pathologic
state is a major aspect of orthopedic biomechanics and is crucial for the design of
implants. External forces result from the weight of the body, the groundreaction force
acting on the foot and acceleration and deceleration of the limb segments.Internalforces
act to balance external forces and are generated by active muscle contraction and
ligamentous forces. These studies require advanced technical instrumentation with
computer data processing. Light emitting diodes are fixed atdifferent part of body and
motion of limb is determined. An optoelectric system measures the three dimensional
position of each light emitting diode on the subject. A piezo electricforce plate gives
the three components of ground reaction force, the vertical twisting moment, and the
location of resultant forces at the foot. Data are collected at different pace of walking
and correlated with kinematic factors.
EMG is useful for assessing activity in various muscles during gait cycle. Technically the
length of electrodes may pose limitations for the distance walked and cable artifacts
may interfere in analysis. Telemetric EMG has beenused with some success to overcome
this. Patient can have "free" walking and EMG can be recorded. Data can be analyzed
raw or after processing. Normal patterns of activation and sequence of muscle
contraction have been described for subjects of different age groups and sexes.
Deviations from normal timing are classified as premature, prolonged, or continuous
and out of phase actions. EMG studies have given significant insight into the problems
of disordered gait in patients with hemiplegia, spastic diplegia, Parkinsonism and in
elderly individuals. It is possible to determine primary abnormalities and compensatory
mechanisms used.228
Metabolic Energy Expenditure
Fundamental feature of human motor behavior is that a freely chosen rate of activity is
preferred that represents minimal energy expenditure per unit task. During natural walking
a person chooses an optional step length and step rate, achieving minimal energy
expenditure per unit distance. The energy cost can be measured, as indicated by oxygen
uptake, during various modes of ambulation by normal or disabled subjects. After the
subject has reached steady state, the expired air is collected for a couple of minutes in
a bag carried on the back. The air is then analyzed for oxygen and carbon dioxide
content to determine metabolic energy factor.
For clinicians the complexity, the technical difficulties and the expertise required for
these methods are prohibitive. However, like many other techniques, gait analysis has
advanced and now become an integral part of gait laboratories. It has been used for
pre and post operative evaluation of patients for cerebral palsy, selection of orthotic
and prosthetic devices, understanding the pathophysiology of gait abnormalities in various
neurological disorders, planning treatment and monitoring of therapeutic techniques
and bio feedback.
Quantification of spasticity
Spasticity is defined as a velocity dependent increase in the tonic stretch reflex
("muscle tone") with exaggerated tendon jerks. It is a common and disabling problem
which results from a variety of neurological disorders eg. head injury, stroke, spinal
injury and myelopathies. Whenever a patient requires evaluation of spasticity the following
question arise. (1) Is spasticity present ? (2) Is it tonic, phasic or combined? (3) What
is the contribution of segmental hyperexcitability ? (4) What supraspinal mechanism(s)
are involved ? (5) How severe is spasticity and (6) What therapy will be most suitable
for the patient ? Neurophysiological methods can partly answer these questions.
Spasticity evaluation techniques can be broadly classified into two groups: (1)
Mechanical methods and (2) Electro-physiological methods. Mechanical techniques
rely on motion applied to a joint and involve gravitational, manual, controlled
displacement and controlled torque methods and have been reviewed recently.29,30
The most easily performed mechanical technique among these is Pendulum test.
Pendulum test
For assessing the spasticity of quadriceps muscle the patient is made to sit and the leg
is raised to horizontal level at knee and dropped. The leg oscillates for a few seconds
before acquiring static position. Knee movement is assessed by electrogoniometer and
rate of movement by tachometer. In view of increased resistance to passive stretch the
amplitude and the number of oscillations are reduced in patients with spasticity. Further,
it takes longer time for the leg to acquire position of rest. More recently it has been
possible to study this phenomenon by using isokinetic systems eg. Cybex II and KINCOM system. These instruments can be used for different muscles in upper and lower
extremities and allow application of passive stretch at varied rate and force. Spastic
limbs demonstrate resistance to joint movements, which is augmented by increasing the
angle of movement and rate at which it is moved.29
Electrophysiological methods
Clinical neurophysiological techniques are useful in documentation and quantification of
spasticity. These help in objective recording clinically observed phenomenon eg.
hyperactive stretch reflex, clonus, lack of reciprocal inhibition during voluntary
movements etc. In addition these are also useful in revealing the underlying
pathophysiological mechanism of spasticity.3134 Some of these methods are described
Tendon jerk: In spasticity, tendon jerks have lower threshold and higher amplitude
and are followed by after discharge of motor units. Surface electrodes are placed over
the muscle belly and stretch reflex is elicited by electrodynamic hammer. Threshold
force required, maximum amplitude of Tendon jerk ("T" wave) and ratio of"T" wave
to "M" wave (direct muscle response to supramaximal nerve stimulation) are recorded.
Similar to "H" maxl"M" max ratio, the "T" maxt'M" max ratio also provide information
about spasticity (see below). 'T' wave can be recorded from many muscles as compared
to "H" reflex.
'H' reflex: Hoffman reflex is the electrical equivalent of tendon jerk. Using low
intensity and long duration electrical stimulus spindle affeient can be stimulated to activate
alpha motor neurons. In normal individuals "H" reflex is restricted to soleus and flexor
carpi radialis muscles out in patients with spasticity "H" reflex can be obtained from
other muscles also eg. tibialis anterior and intrinsic hand muscles of hand. The amplitude
of "H" denotes the availability of excitable motor neurone pool in the spinal cord. The
ratio of"H" max to "M" max is normally less than 0.5 but due to increased excitability
of alpha motor neurons, the "H" maxl"M" Max ratio is more than 0.5 in spasticity.
This parameter is very useful in patients with unilateral lesions as the uneffected side of
the subject can serve as "control".
As "H" reflex bypasses muscle spindle a dissociation in tendon reflex ('T') and electrical
"H" ("T" being more than electrical "H") is believed to suggest increased sensitivity of
muscle spindles and increased gamma motor neurone activity. However, this concept
is now debated in the light of recent microneurographic studies."H" reflexexcitability!
recovery curve also show changes in pyramidal lesion. This is studied by giving a
second stimulus at various intervals from the test stimuli. In normal individualsa second
'H' reflex of identical amplitude is noted only when the stimuli are separated by 100150 msec interval. However, in spastic condition recovery period is shorter and the
amplitude of second 'H' is higher. This depends on the influence of descending tracts
on motor neurone.In normal individuals voluntary contraction of tibialis anterior or
stimulation of peroneal nerve has inhibitory effect on H reflex due to reciprocal inhibitory
mechanism by descending tracts. This may be lost in spasticity and can be demonstrated
When a vibrator (100 Hz) is applied over the muscle during elicitation of stretch reflex
there occurs an inhibition which remains constant throughout the period of vibration.
This is due to presynaptic inhibition on Ia terminals. The same phenomenon can be
demonstrated on "H" reflex also. The index so obtained {H max Vibrated / "H" max X
100 } is often consistent for a given individual but varies among different people. Vibration
inhibition index is reduced in chronic spasticity but not in patients of Parkinsonism or
hyperreflexia of other origin and therefore is considered specific. However, this index
does not correlate with the severity of spasticity. It is symmetrical on both sides in
healthy subjects and therefore, this test is very useful in unilateral lesion. Diazepam
enhances the vibration inhibition index in spasticity while Baclofen does not. Selection
of antispastic drug can thus be based on this therapeutic test.
"F" wave: "F' response (wave) is obtained from muscle by supramaximal stimulation
of its motor nerve and is believed to be due to antidromic activation of alpha motor
neurones. Following recovery from acute state patient with hemiplegia and patients
with chronic spasticity show increased amplitude and persistence of f wave and reflect
hyperexcitability of alpha motor neurone.
Tonic vibration reflex (TVR) : When a vibrator (100-120 Hz and 1-3 mm
displacement) is applied to a muscle continuously, a steadily increasing number of motor
unit potentials (MUPs) can be seen during EMG recording of a healthy individual. This
activity reaches its plateau after a few seconds and is maintained throughout the period
vibration is sustained. Simultaneous recording of force also shows the same changes.
In contrast, patients with spasticity may show shorter latency and lower amplitude
response for a variable period. Thus measurement of onset, amplitude, duration and
irradiation of activity to other muscles can serve as a measure of spasticity. Vibration
stimulates primary and secondary endings of muscle spindles, thereby Ia and II afferent.
Through polysynaptic circuits, the response may irradiate to other muscles as well and
can be measuid. However,the test is not easily quantifiable and does not have significant
practical value.32
Plantar withdrawal reflex : Stroking, the plantar surface of foot electrically results in
flexion of great toe and aciduction of other toes. In patients with spasticity there occurs
an extension of great toe and abduction of other toes. This is believed to reflect global
interneuron activities. In some patients excessive muscle contractions of other muscles
and withdrawal of extremities is noted. This phenomenon can be recorded by
polyelectromyography and the threshold, pattern size of elicited plantar response can
be observed. EMG activity can help in differentiating voluntaiy withdrawal and genuine
abnormal plantar response. A reduced threshold and increased size of response are
characteristic feature of spasticity and can be quantitated.
Thus, electrophysiological methods can help detection and quantification of spasticity
(Pendulum test, "ff'maxt'M" max ratio), understanding of pathophysiological mechanism
(Abnormal "f" and "H" suggest alpha motor neurone hyperexcitabiity, "if' reflex recovery
curve provides evidence of descending influences and vibration induced alteration in
"H" reflex indicates presynaptic inhibition) as also selection of therapy (Diazepam for
patients with presynaptic mechanism and baclofen for patients with abnonnal "H" reflex
recovery) and long term monitoring of patients.
Urogential dysfunction
A number of patients develop bowel, bladder and sexual dysfunction due to neurological
disorders and require rehabilitation. When combined with clinical and urological tests,
electrophysiological techniques provide useful information about the underlying
mechanism for the dysfunction. Commonly used methods are : (1) sphincter
electromyography, (2) study of sacral reflexes, (3) evoked potential studies and (4)
pudendal motor latency. 35-38
Sphincter EMG
This has been in use from early days of clinical EMG and has two main applications:
(1) To record activity of urethral sphincter during urodynamic studies and (2) to assess
the innervation of pelvic floor muscles. The striated muscle is active tonically to maintain
continence all the time. Its activity increases abmptly whenever there is a rise in intra
abdominal pressure and it becomes silent during detrusor contraction when voluntary
voiding is performed. As urethral sphincter is not easily accessible EMG is done from
anal sphincter on the presumption that both the sphincters behave in similar manner.
Various electrodes used are : surface electrodes on either side of anal region, anal plug
electrodes to be put into anal canal, electrodes mounted on catheters and sponge mounted
vaginal electrodes to be placed behind the urethral sphincter. Detailed EMG analysis
of motor units of anal or urethral sphincter can be done by direct insertion of concentric
needle or single fibre EMG needle. For male urethral sphincter needle is inserted in left
lateral position through perineum, 4cm in front of anus and being guided through finger
in rectum towards the apex of prostate. While in woman it is passed through trans-
vaginal approach. Sphincter EMG study helps in identifying detrusor sphincter
dyssenrgia, various causes of incontinence and dysuria eg. high detrusor pressure and
low urinary flow with actively contracting sphincter may suggest detrusor sphincter
dyssynergia while a relaxed sphincter in the same setting may indicate obstructive
pathology. These studies have also provided evidence that stress incontinence in woman
may have neurogenic basis.35 Bio feedback technique using sphincter EMG is useful
for children with enuresis.
Sacral reflex
Latency and type of reflex contractions of the pelvic floor muscles in response to
stimulation of genitalia or perineum have been studied by electrical stimulation and
measure function integrity of sacral reflex arc. Bulbocavernosus reflex can be recorded
using concentric needle inserted into the bulbocavemosus muscle or surface electrodes
placed over the same muscles. Stimulation of penis is done through ring or hand held
bipolar stimulator. A consistence response has two components. An early response
with a latency of 24-45 msec and late response with a latency of 60-70 msec. Similarly
at a relatively longer latency of 59_ 8.0 msec. recorded. Vesicourethral and vesicoanal
reflex can be elicited from respective sphincter muscles by stimulation of catheter mounted
ring electrode. These studies are useful in the evaluation of patients with impotence and
when abnormal, suggest neurogenic basis for it35.
Evoked Potentials
Somatosensory pathways from genitalia to cortex can be evaluated by stimulating dorsal
nerve of penis or clitoris and recording potentials from scalp, two centimeters behind
CZ. The so recorded pudendal evoked potential have latency and configuration, similar
to posterior tibial nerve potential.35'37 Stimulation of bladder and urethra also evoke
cortical response. Hàwever, these are of lower amplitude and longer latency, because
the afferents involved are probably small unmyelinated fibers.
Motor evoked potential from pelvic floor muscles, anal and urethral sphincter can be
obtained by electrical or magnetic stimulation of cortex and spinal cord. It is important
that the recording is done by needle electrode so that EMG contamination from other
stimulated muscles is avoided.
Pudendal nerve latency
Study of conduction in pudendal nerve was todate difficult due to the inaccessibility of
the nerve. A newer system consisting of stimulating electrode fixed at the tip of finger
and recording electrode at the base of index finger has made it possible. Finger is
introduced into anus and the pudendal nerve is stimulated at the site it crosses ischial
spine. EMG response can be recorded at a terminal latency of 2.1 -0.2 m.sec from
anal sphincter and 2.4 - 0.2 m.sec from urethral sphincter.
The EMG from smooth muscle of corpus cavernosum (CCEMG) can be recorded
using concentric needle electrodes. Rhythmic bursts of activity seen when penis is
flaccid. Penile tumsence is accompanied by silent CCEMG. In subjects with neurogenic
impotence CCEMG activity persists during sexual stimulation preventing erections35.
Sympathetic skin response is a simple, non-invasive electrophysiological t est for
sudomotor function. SSR from perineum is a potentially useful test for evaluation of
impotence and incontinence35.
These techniques in varying combination have been widely used to investigate patients
of fecal and urinary incontinence, monitor children with spina bifida and neurogenic
Assessment of residual function
Recovery of patients following neurological injury depends on the severity and extent
of lesion. Accurate prognostication, selection of restorative procedures and critical
evaluation of therapeutic interventions need documentation of the integrity of the
descending influence and residual function.39-43 Electrophysiological methods being
highly objective have played an important role in assessing residual function of the
descending tracts and final motor output. Many techniques have been used for this by
Dimitrijevic and his colleague to assess residual upper and lower motor neuron control,
following a protocol known as "Brain motor control assessment" (BMCA), in subjects
with spinal injury.39
The surface electrodes are applied over the muscle belly of quadriceps, adductor,
hamstring, triceps surae, tibialis anterior bilaterally and lower abdominal and lumbar
paraspinal muscles. Myoelectric signals are recorded from these muscles with a high
sensitivity using a number of maneuvers and data obtained from the
polyelectromyography are analyzed.
Voluntary effort
EMG activity is recorded from the muscles after asking the patient to contract the
muscles at multiple joint on three trials. Presence of EMG activity in clinically "paralysed"
muscles suggests preservation of motor control.
Reinforcement maneuvers
After a relaxation for 10 minutes in supine position patient is required to perform
reinforcement maneuvers consisting of forceful closure of eyes, clinching ofjaws, forceful
shrugging of shoulder against resistance, neck flexion against resistance, deep inspiration,
clinching of fist etc. These maneuvers are repeated on three occasions. A dissociation
between EMG activity during voluntary activity and reinforcement maneuvers provide
information regarding integrity of upper motor neurone.
Reflex studies
Recording of tendon reflexes, vibration reflex and plantar reflex also form part of the
study. After base line study the subject is asked to augment or suppress the response.
Demonstration of patients ability to modify the response indicates residual descending
influence. Further, the effect of Jandressik maneuver, caloric stimulation and audiospinal
facilitation has also been studied on tendon and "H" reflex.314143 Audiospinal and
caloric stimulation facilitation of stretch and "H" reflex help in evaluating reticulospinal
Transcranial stimulation
Magnetic and electrical stimulation of cortex and spinal cord can evoke motor response
from muscle and provide indication about the functional integrity of pyramidal tracts.
Sherwood et a142 using Brain motor control assessment protocol analyzed data of the
patients with spinal cord injury referee for rehabilitation. They observed that of the 88
patients with clinically "complete" lesion, 74(84%) were "discomplete"lesion i.e. had
evidence of residual brain influence. These tests are now routinely used prior to
therapeutic intervention, eg. gait training using body weight support systemfor spinal
injury patients, functional electrical stimulation etc. However, these tests are time
consuming, require patient's cooperation, accurate application of electrodes and precise
documentation of data.
Feedback is an engineering term defined as a method of controlling a system by reinserting
into it results of past performance. The term biofeedback is a convenient abbreviation
of biological feedback. It is a technique where in covert physiological processes are
made more overt to the patient. Biofeedback in rehabilitation can be used to inform the
patient about muscle activity, movement, force, balance, gait,joint displacement and
other physiological activates by amplification and proper display so that the subject can
learn to control them. Electromyographic feedback (EMG feedback) is the commonest
technique applied in physical therapy.'45 Its proper use requires knowledge of
physiological principles of motor control in normal and abnormal states. The functional
unit of motor system is single motor neurone, its axon and muscle fibers supplied by it.
These have different anatomical, physiological and histochemical properties. Recordings
from single motor units in healthy individual have suggested that during the process of
recruitment, small low threshold units are activated first and as the tension is increased,
high threshold larger unit are brought into action. Similar pattern is seen during relaxation
i.e. large units derecruit earlier than the small units. Within the limitations of this size
principle, an individual can be trained to recruit at a desirable frequency when the
audiovisual feedback is provided. Characteristics of single motor unit (SMU) can be
studied in various disorders of nervous system using EMG technique and can be used
for feedback.'°
The basic EMG biofeedback device includes one ground and two active surface
electrodes, an amplifier, an audiospeaker and a video display. EMG signals can be
displayed raw or in the integrated form after processing. The training consists of either
relaxation of hypertonic muscles or recruitment of muscles that need facilitation. On the
similar lines patients can be given feedback of point motion (Kinematic feed back)
using rheostat, standing balance (posturography) and dynamic force feedback (Kinetic
feedback) to control mobility in orthopedic and neurological disorder requiring
rehabilitation. However, patient can not be attached to a machine and left alone to
practice. Continuous supervision, cuing, adaptations and variation in exercises are
necessary. Similar to any other therapeutic program. It is note worthy that improperly
used EMG feedback can cause increase in spasticity.46
EMG feedback is in practice for more than three decades and has been used in
rehabilitation of patients with stroke,47'48 head injury, back pain, cerebral palsy, spinal
cord injury, Bell's palsy, peripheral neuropathies, torticollis and other dystonia. Poor
designs of studies, small sample size, improper quantitations of deficits and benefits are
some reasons which do not allow accurate conclusion about their utility. However, it is
a potential technique for rehabilitation which has neurophysiological basis.
Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is a neural prosthesis that utilizes stimulation of
neural tissue. With the development of sophisticated neurosurgical techniques and
implantable electronic stimulators it is now possible to selectively stimulate the neural
tissue at various sites along the neuraxis for relief of symptoms.4952 These stimulators
not only avoid ablative surgery but are also safe for long term use. They can be monitored
and removed whenever required. Several stimulation technique have been used for
many disorders eg. pain (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and stimulation of
dorsal spinal roots, dorsal column, pen acqueductal grey and thalamus), spasticity (dorsal
cord and cerebellar stimulation), epilepsy (cerebellar and thalamic stimulation), respiratory
disorders such as cervico medullary lesion and sleep apnea (phrenic nerve stimulation)
micturition disorders (pelvic floor, anterior sacral root, conus medullaris and dorsal
cord stimulation), impotence (electro ejaculation) and others. 51.52 EMG signals from
residual muscles have also been used for triggering movements for prosthesis eg.
myoelectric arm.49 It has now been possible to generate reciprocal stepping pattern in
patients with paraplegia using functional electrical stimulation.5° Clinical
electrophysiological methods play crucial role in selection, application, evaluation and
improvement of various neurostimulation techniques.
Clinical neurophysiology has enhanced understanding of normal and abnormal functioning
of nervous system. These techniques are available world wide, standardized, risk free,
require limited patient cooperation and provide quantitative results which permit intra
and inter individual comparisons. They permit assessment of impairment in physiologic
terms and allow development of therapeutic strategies which can correct these
dysfunction. However, these techniques do not measure disabilities and may not be
applicable in all circumstances. Further, some of these technique need mechanical
devices and other methods for comprehensive evaluation. Nevertheless these techniques
are complementazy to clinical evaluation and to a certain extent therapeutic interventions.
The secretarial assistance of Mr.M.V.Srinivasan and Mr.K.Bhaskar and help of the
staff of the departments of medical illustration and clinical electrophysiology section of
Neurology are gratefully acknowledged.
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Where do I go from here ? Rehabilitation of a stroke survivor
Subhash Kaul , C. Mahesh Kumar
Stroke has always been perceived as a devastating illness. The public perception towards
it has been "it is all over ", "stop" and "the end".The fatalistic attitude towards it
extends beyond the acute care. It is distressing that inundergraduate medical curriculum
in India there is no emphasis on rehabilitation. It is
no surprise, therefore, that most of
the physicians have little understanding of the basicprinciples of rehabilitation. This
article aims to present an overview of the principles and practice of stroke rehabilitation.
It is not intended to describe the details of
physical therapy, for which, nothing can
replace hands-on demonstration.
What is stroke rehabilitation?
The word rehabilitation is derived from the Latin word, habile, which means to make
able, and the Latin prefix, re, meaning again. It was initially used in the 8 century
when sinners and transgressors who hadrepented and made amends were once again
able to wear the dress of their denomination. "To
make able again "is the essence of
modem stroke rehabilitation.' Stroke rehabilitation
is a program designed to help the
stroke victim overcome the disabilityresulting from brain damage and to enable him to
function at physical, psychological and social levelsdespite the disability that remains
after all spontaneous
recovery from brain damage is ceased. It is important to know
that rehabilitation encompasses the whole range of techniques and
arrangements to
make a person as independent as possible. It isnot synonymous with physical therapy
alone as is commonly believed.
Physiotherapy is just a part of it.
Does stroke rehabilitation really help?
A number of uncontrolled and controlled
randomised studies have suggested that
rehabilitation programs lead to an improvement in functional status that cannot be
attributed merely to spontaneousrecovery.23 No specific, intervention,
philosophy, or
mechanism has been proved to account for this improvement. This benefit
may be
statistically small but for the individual patient it could mean much difference.4
When hould rehabilitation begin?
Rehabilitation should probably begin as soon as possible after the acute event. For
patients who are only mildly involved with paresis and who retain voluntary movement,
generally little in the way of immediate treatment is needed.5 For individuals with complete
paralysis treatment is more intense, although whether highly intensive treatment is better
than moderately intensive therapy is debatable.4
Phases of stroke rehabiltation
The whole aim of rehabilitation is to make a person independent in his daily living. This
process starts from intensive care unit itself and extends well into the home and even the
work place of individual. Thus we have early, intermediate and long-term phases of
Early phase
At this stage, medical and neurological stabilization is a priority. It is also necessary to
initiate the plan for alleviating the disabilities that occur as a result of stroke. The ultimate
goal is to enable the patient to enter intermediate and long term rehabilitation. Following
things need care in acute phase:
Skin care. Lack of movement results in continuous pressure on skin covering bony
prominenes such as heels, hips and scapulae. This unrelieved pressure impedesblood
flow , and the tissue dies due to lack of nutrients. This results in a pressure ore.
Warning sign that the integrity of the skin is threatened are localized warm, red spots
which do not disappear after pressure has been relieved. Persons with diabetes are
already prone to skin problems caused by poor circulation in the arms and legs and
should be particularly careful after a stroke. An egg crate type of pressure release
mattress is recommended to prevent pressure sores. The bed should be kept flat to
reduce pressure on the bony prominences and reduce the tendency toward contractures
of the hip and knee. Position should be changed at least every two hours. If an ulcer has
developed, it should be cleaned with antiseptic. Diet should include protein, vitamins
and zinc. When adjusting the patient's' position, the staff and family should be cautioned
against pulling paralyzed extremity.6
Prevention ofcontractures: Joints that are immobilized for long periods of time because
of paralysis are likely to develop contractures which may eventually interfere with
rehabilitation process. Therefore, the initial goal of rehabilitation is to preventjoint and
muscle contracture.. This is achieved by passive range of motion exercises done thrice
daily. Family members should be taught how to provide a full range of motion. Passive
range of motion exercises may help patients to mobilize remaining voluntary movement.
Some patients report that passive range of motion exercise seem to make possible the
initiaton of voluntary movement.7
Proper positioning . At all times limbs should be kept in a proper position. Learning to
live in a recovery pattern will prevent crippling contractures. Normal anatomic alignment
of the head, trunk and limbs should be maintained. The patient should not sit on one hip
or lean on one side persistently when sitting. Each joint should be positioned in the
opposite direction from its spastic position as much as possibje. For example, the fingers
should be kept extended at all times, and the ankle-foot angle at 90 degrees. When the
patient is in bed, the paralysed arm should be slightly elevated to promote venous
drainage, and the foot of the paralysed lower extremity should be placed in a posterior
splint, which prevents plantar flexion and external rotation of the foot. While sitting, the
chair should be low enough to allow feet to be flat on floor which allows the hips,
knees, and ankles to be at right angles. The chair should be firm enough to provide
support. While lying it is always best to lie on one side or the other but one should
frequently reposition. 8llead position affects muscle tone of trunk and limbs. If it is
always turned to one side, an abnormal posture will develop, hindering mobility. Therefore
all body parts should be kept in a normal position centred above shoulders. In bed,
head should be supported with one pillow. When sitting, patient should be encouraged
to keep his weight evenly distributed on both hips which will keep trunk in proper
position. If shoulder is mildly dislocated, pillows should be used to keep the upper arm
and elbow out and away from chest.
Painjidshoulders'vndrome . With flaccid paralysis of muscles around the shoulder,
the weight of the arm may stretch the shoulder joint capsule and subluxation of the joint
may occur when the patient is upright. This is apparent on examination and on
roentgenogram. A paralysed , immobile arm that hangs loosely at the patient's side
often becomes edematous when the patient is sitting upright because of impaired venous
return. This can be overcome by supporting the patient's arm in a sling or by using a
special device placed on achairto keep the arm supported.This reduces stress on the
shoulderjoint and brings the arm is slightly above or at the level of the heart. A pressure
glove can reduce hand edema. Another cause of pain in the shoulder associated with
immobility of the arm is adhesive capsulitis. This pain may be constant but is made
worse by moving the arm. The problem may begin a few hours after the onset of
paralysis and can be prevented by gently moving the arm through the normal range of
motion several times a day. Treatment includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents
and sometimes corticosteroids such as prednisone given initially in doses of 40 to 60
mg per day , tapered over about two weeks. However steroid therapy should be
reserved for patients who do not respond to other means of treatment5
Sensory neglect: Sensory neglect can be an immediate or intermediate problem in
stroke rehabilitation. This is liable to happen in right hemispheric strokes. The paralysed
arm can be completely neglected, which increases the possibility of injuryfrom trauma
and presssure. The patient is not in a position to pay attention to the arm and protect it.
The arm must be prevented from falling with the use of a sling.
Bladder disturbances : Retention of urine is often managed initially by insertion of an
indwelling catheter, which allows for continuous drainage of urine. However, because
this procedure involves the risk of infection, intermittent catheterization may be used.
This involves periodically draining the bladder by inserting a small catheter evely four to
six hours until satisfactory bladder function returns. Incontinence is a common problem
after stroke and is due to impairment of the neurologic system controlling urination and
depression in the level of awareness. Several simple measures can help. Often the
cause of incontinence is the inability to hold the urine long enough to make it to bathroom.
One way to deal with this is to have a means of signalling for assistance as soon as the
urge to void is felt. Another method is to go to the bathroom every twohours during the
day (timed voiding) to keep the bladder from filling up. This can be done until better
control is regained. Similarly, restricting fluids after the evening meals can prevent night
time incontinence. Finally, it is important to provide as much privacy for toileting as
possible. In cases of persistent incontinence caffeinated and alcoholic drinks should be
avoided. If all the above measures fail, one should consult a urologist to consider infection
or any other remedial urological problem.
Bowels. Constipation and bowel incontinence are frequent problems following a stroke,
resulting from a variety of causes. These may include reduced fluid intake, limited
mobility, lack of awareness or failure to respond to the urge for defecation, or the
inability to request assistance. It is important to restore a predictable bowel movement
schedule as soon as possible. An initial approach to establishing a pattern is to determine
the person's prior bowel habits and make sure that there is opportunity to defecate
according to that pattern. Privacy and use of the toilet are important. The sitng position
allows one to lean forward, thus increasing intra-abdominal pressure to aid in expulsion
of the stool. A diet with adequate fluid and bulk is necessary. If constipation persists, a
stool softner and/or bulk agent may be helpful.
Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) It has been showed that in the first week of stroke
30-75% of patients have evidence of DVT on investigations. The efficacy of heparin in
the prevention of DVT is undisputed. Reduction in DVT and pulmonary embolus with
intermittant pneumatic compression devices is similar to that with low-dose heparin and
may be a safer alternative in patients with spontaneous or traumatic hematoma. Preventive
treatment is usually given for two weeks although the ideal time to stop heparin is when
patient starts walking. If patient develpes DVT, then heparin is given intravenously for
10 days to maintain a partial thromboplastin time of 1.5 times control, after which
warfarin is adminstered for 3-6 months.9
Intermediate phase
A clearer picture of patient's disability emerges at this time and accordingly one can
choose the rehabilitation program most appropriate to the patient. All patients are not
likely to derive equal benefit from rehabilitation. A conceptual scheme for assessing the
functional potential of each surviving stroke patient is a basic foundation for the rational
management of the rehabilitation process. This helps to keep the goal realistic. The
most powerful determinant of functional outcomes in stroke would appear to be the
specific neurological deficit. Certain deficits like aphasia have an obvious negative impact
on the future functional levels achievable by stroke survivor. More subtle organic
cognitive deficits can affect the ability to learn. Special techniques have to be used to
obviate such difficulties. For example the most rehabilitation workers are trained to use
visual cues in patients with left cortical lesions and verbal cues in those with right
cortical lesions. Co-morbidity is crucial for in functional prognosis. For example diseases
like chronic obstructive lung disease, arthritis or amputations will interfere with the patient's
eventual ability to walk. Psycho-social and financial factors also determine the final
outcome. A formal evaluation of mood is often useful in the initial stages of rehabilitation
because psycho-social malady like depression can impede the progress of rehabilitation.
There are variety of scales and scoring systems which are used for mental, psychological
and motor assessment.'° If depression is present, it should be treated medically as it
may improve the outcome of rehabilitation programs." In an effective rehabilitation
program, all aspects of the patient's disability should be examined and carefully assessed
because one aspect may severely interfere with performance in another. These problems
must be considered and dealt with as quickly as possible by several staff members .The
personnel usually required to provide adequate rehabilitation for victims of stroke include
I) Neurologist or a Physician interested in stroke 2) Skilled nursing staff 3) Physical
therapist 4) Occupational therapist 4) Social worker 5) Neuropsychologist and 6)
speech therapist. This group should meet regularly to assess the progress. Patients
should ideally be discharged to home when either they improve to the point of being
able to be cared for at home or when their further progress reaches a plateau..
Physical therapy : There are numerous techniques of physical therapy, many of which
are based on old concepts. Whether any strategy currently available to enhance motor
recovery is superior to spontaneous recovery remains controversial. Most techniques
suggest different approaches to similar clinical problems. For example, the Bobath
approach strives to suppress any abnormal patterns of movement associated with
recovery from stroke, while the Brunnstorm approach actually recommends the
facilitation of mass movement (synergy patterns) early in the recovery process.'2 A
more recent approach proposed by Carr and Shepherd emphasises the mastery of
functional motor skills which are task specific, consistent with current theories of motor
learning.'3 Despite the lack of proof of efficacy, Ernst concluded after a careful review
of literature that rehabilitaton is preferable to spontaneous recovery, regardless of which
physiotherapy is chosen.4 Physical therapists encourage the patients to use paralysed
extremity parts as often and as effectively as they can with a variety of exercise programs.
The training fbr ambulation : Most patients who have paralysis of the upper extremity
have less weakness of the lower extremity. With suitable encouragement, education
and considerable training by the physical therapist and occupational therapist most of
the stroke survivors will learn to walk. The whole process goes through certain phases.
Sit up phase: Of necessity, thepatient's return to vertical tolerance must precede other
mobility training. Cardiac instability, postural hypotension, truncal ataxia, and severe
general weakness are most often the delaying factors and must be paid proper attention.
Patients should be made to sit for at least 15 minutes every 2-3 hours and adequate
back support provided. As the patient shows improvement, the back rest should be
taken out and patient should be encouraged to sit unsupported. Patient should be
allowed to shift weight alternatively and rhythmically from hip to hip, side to side and
forward-backward. This will enhance the sitting balance. Neck and spinal extension
should be maintained as this incorporates the feeling of independent sitting in patient.
Wheelchair transfers must be successfully carried out to complete the Asit-up phase@
for patients who are unable to walk. In this stage the hemiplegic limb is usually in various
degrees of flaccidity. An important technique for transferring patient from bed to
wheelchair should be learnt at this stage. This is called A pivot transfer @.It is
accompalished by the helper placing his heels together with the feet angled to form a V.
The patient's hemiplegic foot is placed in the V, and the helper' knees are aligned to
either side of the patient's hemiplegic knee. Using good back mechanics, the helper
flexes at the hip and knee, has the patient hold on at the waist with the most functional
upper extremity, gently rocks the patient forward to move the center of gravity over the
feet, then stands up with the pressure of the helper's knees against the patient's knee to
lock it into extension. This manoeuvre does not require the helper to physically lift the
patient; rather, the helper guides the patient and provides safety against collapse of the
hemiplegic leg as the patient provides the power lift with his hip extensors and knee
extensors. Once the patient is standing, a pivot placing the back of the patient's thighs
against a well-placed locked wheelchair is accomplished, and the patient is allowed to
sit down in a controlled fashion with the helper exercising a controlled knee and hip
flexion and the patient using the unaffected arm and leg to control the sitting process.
The same transfer technique can be successfully used to accomplish toilet transfers
from the wheelchair.
Stand up phase Walking requires that the patient first sits up, then stands up. Standing
up requires adequate cognition to understand the process, motor planning skills, freedom
from contractures, balance skills, and adequate strength or useful spasticity to support
the hemiplegic limb. Ankle and knee control is necessary. If patient has a flail ankle or
inadequate dorsiflexion and inversion and eversion control, an ankle foot orthosis should
be provided as an ankle control device. Hirschberg has long advocated a A stand-upstep-up exercise regimen in which patients may be treated in groups or individually. A
simple stable chair or parallel bars may be used. To ensure success from the first therapy
session, the height of the bed is adjusted upward or risers are placed on the chair so
that, when the patient is asked to stand up, he can do it easily. The helper may stand
opposite the patient in a position similar to that for the standing pivot transfer conducted
during sit-up phase. The patient places the unaffected hand palm down and pushes the
parallel bar or chair back, at the same time the unaffected leg is used to accomplish the
stand up. The patient is instructed to avoid gripping the bars or chair and to push down
and not pull up on the bar. These are the same mechanics necessary for successful
walker or cane use. As the patient's capability to perform 10 self paced stand up
movements improves, the task is increased in difficulty, the seat height is progressively
lowered until standard heights are mastered. The patient's progress with this stand up
routine is easily measured by noting the number of inches orrisers lowered, the number
of stand ups achieved and the duration it took to achieve them. This exercise is most
functional and easily followed with hand signals, even in aphasic patients.Effective and
progressive strengthening of hip and knee extensors, and shoulder stabilizers occurs.
Once the stand up is achieved, the patient practices balance and weight shifts side to
side at the parallel bars and may perform toe standing exercises to develop the triceps
surae and toe plantar flexor function. A cadence of stand up, balance, toe up, and sit
down is followed. As voluntary control returns to the hemiplegic side, it too contributes
to the stand-up-sit-down effort. The program lends itself tothe group exercise, which
is valuable with the minimum staff ofthe hospital. As success is obtainedwith the standup programme, a psychologic high may be experienced by the patient. Once safe stand
up motion and balance is achieved, the patient advances in ADL skills training that
takes advantage of verticality, including hygiene arid lower extremity dressingskills.
Step up phase: For locomotion to occur functionally, hip flexion must return to the
hemiplegic side, allowing for forward progression of the leg. Hirschbergadvocated
step-up exercises as an effective means of increasing hip flexor, hip extensor and
abductor, and knee extensor strength. Using a stairway with handrails, the patients
stands up with the unaffected leg while maintaining balance with the hemiplegic extremity
and opposite unaffected arm on the rail. Once the unaffected leg is in place on the step
and the patient steps up, the hemiplegic leg is brought to the same step as the unaffected
foot, balance is regained, the hand is advanced on the rail, and a repetitionof the
sequence for the next step is made. The patient descends backwards, still facing the
steps and with the hemiplegic leg lowered to the nextlower step, and balances with the
unaffected leg and the unaffected arm on the rail. The unaffected leg controls the rate of
descent and is then lowered to the same step as the hemiplegic leg, while the hemiplegic
leg and the unaffected arm maintain the balance. The process is repeated until the
ground is reached. Only later with mature gait does the patient attempt to descend
stairs while facing the ground. Until good reciprocal leg function is regained, the onestep-at-a-time pattern is retained and alternate stepping is avoided.
Step out phase: At this stage the patient is ready to apply neurologic recovery and
balance, motor control, strength and endurance gains to the ultimate goal espoused by
most stroke syndrome patients-to walk again. Many techniques have been advocated
for device-assisted gait training, and different therapists use different approaches
depending on the individual needs and preferences of patients.
Braces, Canes, Walkers and Other Devices: Patients who are well motivated and
who have any residual strength in their lower extremity on the paretic side can usually,
with suitable bracing and support, bear weight and become ambulatory. Such patients
can be trained to walk with canes, with a walker or with other individual's support.
When one leg is weaker than the other, the appropriate sequence of walking should
simulate a natural pattern as much as possible. In normal persons, opposite arm and leg
move together while walking. The stroke survivor should, therefore , first advance the
cane held in the unaffected hand, followed by advancing the affected leg and finally
advancing the unaffected leg. Patient should also be made to practice to walk backwards
and sideways. Among these patients , foot drop is common. It is necessary to provide
a foot drop brace so that the patient can elevate the toes while taking step. There are a
number of braces that provide adequate correction of foot drop and help to overcome
the tendency for inversion of the foot, which occurs with developing spasticity. Another
problem associated with leg weakness is retrocurving of the knee joint because of lack
of muscle strength to keep the joint in proper alignment. There are a number of braces
that help avoid this problem. When patients am moving but have a paretic upper extremity,
it must be supported by a suitable sling because a dangling arm may increase the stretching
of the shoulder joint capsule. During the progression from wheelchair dependence to
independence walking, aids like cane and support from caregiver will be needed. First
there will be parallel bars in the physical therapy department. This will be followed by a
large-based quad cane. Finally a standard cane will be used. In the initial phase of
rehabilitation, cane or any other walking device helps to lean on, but as the patient
improves, the aid helps with balance more than weight bearing. It may also reduce
fatigue which increases walking endurance. Another function of cane is to prevent
development of limp, which is the result of uncorrected muscle balance. The height of
any walking device should be adjusted to allow a patient to stand erect, with a slight 15
degrees bend in patient's elbow. A walking aid should always be held in unaffected
hand. A patient may not need a cane at all after a while but this should be discussed
with physical therapist. Following a stroke, an individual may need any one of a variety
of devices to help compensate for lack of muscle tone or to counteract the excessive
tone found with spasticity. These devices are prescribed, ordered, fabricated, and fitted
by members of the rehabilitation team. The following ones are most frequently used:
Slings are used primarily when the individual is walking. There are two kinds of slings.
A hemi-sling is generally used for a flaccid arm in the early stages of rehabilitation. It
holds the entire limb in close to body to prevent injury. Since there is no voluntary
motion in this stage of recovery, the forearm and hand are also supported. A shoulder
girdle sling holds the shoulder joint up in its normal position. It can prevent pain and
maintain joint alignment while muscles are regaining strength. The elbow and forearm
are free to move with this kind of sling.
Resting hand splint maintains the affected hand in a functional position (open fingers,
thumb away from palm, and wrist slightly extended). If there is spasticiy, a resting splint
will slowly relax the muscle tightness and prevent finger contractures.inger spreader
maintains the affected hand in a relaxed position with fingers spread and wrist in slight
Swallowing disorders: Besides disrupting other motor pathways, strokes commonly
cause dysphagia thereby impairing chewing and swallowing. Patients may pocket food
in the mouth on the side of the hemiparesis, have a slowed or absent swallowing reflex,
and have a tendency to aspirate. Modem speech pathologists are trained in the bedside
evaluation of dysphagia. A swallowing study using barium of various consistenciesmay
help the therapist determine what are best approaches to treatment. Although families
are eager to feed patients right away, the physician should remember that aspiration can
occur even in the absence of coughing. While speech pathologist can recommend
specific treatments, most patients with an impaired swallowing mechanism can better
tolerate a thickened pureed diet than a full liquid diet. Recommendations include leaning
to the strong side to allow gravity to propel the food bolus to the location of thestronger
pharyngeal muscles. A chin tuck maneuver is used at times to alleviate collection of
material in the pharyngeal areas and improve epiglottic closure. For those who are
unable to swallow without significant risk of aspiration, nasogastric feeding is
recommended. Nasogastic feeding is also a helpful supplement for those whoare
unable to take in adequate calories due to dysphagia. Patients with a unilateral
hemispheric stroke usually regain enough function to give up their feeding tubes. However,
patients with bilateral strokes and brain stem strokes often have a profound impairment
of swallowing that will persist for months, if not permanently. For thosepatients,
percutaneous placement ofagastrostomy (PEG) has become an easy and advisable
procedure. PEG is recommended for those who may be tube feeding for as little as 46 weeks because NG tubes are associated with complications such as sinusitis, nasal
and pharyngeal erosions, breathing difficulties, pneumonia, and apotential for tube
Speech therapy: The speech therapy is based on the deficit in the individual patient.
The results are varied. The best results are obtained in patients with single infarct who
start treatment within three months after stroke. Three hours of therapyper week are
reported to give good results. In the last few years many aided and unaided
communication systems have been developed. The unaided communication system
includes gestures, body language, facial expression, head nodding and blinking. The
aided communication systems are sign language, cued speech, use of communication
books, typewriters, computers and voice output communication systems. Another
recent advance in aphasia treatment is melodic intonation therapy.
Cognitive rehabilitation: Patients with stroke may be left with cognitivedisturbances
which will vary from person to person. These may not entirely or even partly recover
but with patient's personal resolve, determination, family support and guidance by
rehabilatationists many of these difficulties can be surmounted.
Agnosia: Agnosia is the inability to associate an object with its use. A personwith
agnosia may use a toothbrush to comb hair, drink shaving lotion, or be unable to
recognise the face of a familiar person. This can be potentially dangerous. In order to
deal with this problem, it is necessary to make the living situation free of dangerous
objects or poisonous substances. Activities must be structured and monitored closely.
The family should also remind the stroke survivor of the correct ways to use objects, as
often as possible.
Apraxia : Apraxia is the inability to voluntarily perform certain movements, despite
adequate muscle strength. In other words, the person is able to perform the movement,
when not thinking about it, but cannot do so if asked. There are several different
manifestations of apraxia. In motor apraxia, for instance, the person may be physically
able to stand up, but unable to do so if asked. Another kind of apraxia is dressing
apraxia. The person may be unable to put on a sweater, if asked, but may later slip it on
without thinking or may put on clothes inappropriately, such as upside down, inside out,
or on the arms. Apraxia may appear to be stubbornness (when it is not) to the caregivers
and can lead to misunderstandings. Caregivers can help by talking the person through
the activity, guiding the hand and demonstrating the desired movement. For example it
is better to tell them "get dressed" rather than "put your arm here". Stroke survivors
with apraxia need a routine for activities of daily living so that daily repetition becomes
a pattern.
Bod Scheme Disturbances . Body image disturbances are changes in how one
perceives oneself mentally and how one understands one's body and its parts. For
example, the patient may not be able to differentiate his right from his left side. At times
patient may confuse his arm or leg with those of someone sitting next to him. Such
patients find it very difficult to perform everyday activities correctly. It is helpful for the
caregiver to give frequent reminders of right and left, as well as identifying body parts.
A full length mirror or other feedback techniques, such as pictures of persons, can be
helpful. With therapy and daily repitition, this problem often can be resolved or at least
significantly improved.
Hemineglect: Hemineglect is the inability to perceive the environment on one side of
the body, resulting in that side being ignored and not used. This problem is usually
experienced more often by someone suffering from left-side paralysis. Examples of
one-sided neglect include unknowingly letting the arm dangle over the side of the
wheelchair into the spokes and not using one side of the body despite the return of
muscle strength and sensation. The biggest hazard associated with this problem is the
possibility of frequent injury to body parts. The caregiver should give frequent reminders
of the ignored side by touching it, talking about it, asking the stroke survivor to Afind@
it or rub it gently with a towel. Persons having a conversation with the stroke survivor
should stand in front or to the unaffected side. The stroke survivor should wear bright
visual reminders on the affected side, such as scarf or a bracelet, a piece oftape on the
shoe etc. It can also be helpful to wear one's watch on the affected arm, as a reminder
to look for that arm.
Hemianopia. A person suffering from this disorder may run into objects on the affected
side, may see and eat only half the food on the plate, or may not see someone on the
affected side. The stroke survivor has to be taught compensatory techniques such as
turning the head to see the whole picture and scanning the environment frequently.
Training for activities of daily living
The ADL spectrum of functional parameters has received a considerable amount of
study and is the best known and most standardised set of outcome variables in stroke.
The most popular way to measure independence in ADL is to classify the patient
according to Barthel index. A maximum score of 100 on this index means that the
individual can get along without attendent care. Patients are taught how to clean their
face, teeth, and body with the normal arm and how to dress. Patients with right
hemiparesis are taught to use the left hand to eat. Goals for rehabilitation must be set in
keeping with the reality of the patient's physical disability. With hemiplegia, the best
that can be hoped for is the ability to regain some degree of ambulation andparticipation
with help in performing daily activities. With improvement, expectations can rise and for
those with minimal or mild weakness return to normal activities can be expected.
Long term rehabilitation
Even though most marked improvement is achieved during the first three months,
rehabilitation should be continued for a longer period to pivent subsequent deterioration.
As the ultimate aim is to enable the patient to return to his routine life, it is essential to
evaluate the patient for his or her ability to carry out activities of daily living (ADL).
There are several methods used to determine a numerical value or score for ADL. One
of the most widely used scoring systems is Barthel index. Each of these daily activities
is given a score depending on patient's ability to perform the activity. A score of 100 in
the B arthel index indicates functional independence and a score of 0 indicates total
dependence. Patients with scores under 40 at discharge after rehabilitation program
rarely are independent. For those with higher scores, there is increasing independence.
If the scores plateau and show no evidence of further improvement over several
weeks, it is unlikely that further efforts in a rehabilitation program will be worthwhile.
Self -help devices and modification of home environment: When a patient with
stroke has reached maximal improvement on a rehabilitaton program and is left with
disability, independence at home can be increased by a number of self help devices and
modification of the home environment. Self-help devices are largely designed to aid the
stroke victim who has only one functioning hand. The patient's functional capacity should
be assessed, and the home should be investigated to see what modifications might be
possible to make it easier for the patient to function. Assistive devices for grooming
include a long-handled bath brush, long handled shoe horn, buttoning aids, Velcro instead
of laces for shoes, flexible showerhead extendors and large handled hair brush and
comb. Bathroom modification is always necessary, including an elevated toilet seat,
grab bars on each side of toilet, or a movable chair commode. Self help devices may be
among the most effective means of attaining self care.
Urine collecting devices: Sadly, there are some stroke survivors who continue to
have incontinence despite all attempts at retraining. This may occur if the stroke damage
is extensive or if cognition is severely impaired. At times, the only solution is the use of
an indwelling Foley catheter. This is indicated when constant wetness causes skin irritation
or breakdown. For men, there are external condom catheters that attach to a leg bag
for day use and a bed bag for night use. Condom catheters should be changed daily,
and the skin should be washed and dried thoroughly before reapplying the catheter.
For womeic, disposable pant-liners, waterproof underpants, and disposable adult diapers
are commercially available. If these devices are used, careful cleansing and lubrication
of the skin is required.
Exercises As far as possible, all stroke survivors should exercise which are appropriate
to the patient's medical status and level of ability. The exercise program should be
designed by physical and occupational therapists who are trained to develop programs
based on a person's level of ability, endurance and lifestyle. Even after formal rehabilitation
is completed. the need to do daily exercises at home will continue for most stroke
patients indefinitely.
Newer strategies
An unusual approach to motor retraining is the forced use of a paretic extremity.14 This
strategy is based on the theory that learned non-use of a paretic limb cntributes to lack
of recovery. Placement of the unaffected arm in a sling for two weeks has been shown
to improve sped and quality of movement in the affected hand of selected patients,
even when treatment begins over a year after stroke. Gains are maintained in some
patients during follow up.periods of a year or longr. Another interesting approach to
promote motor recovery consists of treadmill training with partial weight bearing. As
patients improve, less weight support is provided and treadmill support is increased. In
a small series of nonambulatory patients more than three months post stroke who had
failed comprehensive therapy program most regained independent ambulation. Other
training techniques have included weight bearing exercises involving the upper and
lower extremities, functional electrical stimulation (FES), biofeedback, and vibration
and other sensory modalities. ' Functional electric stimulation (FES) is a non-specific
term applied to variety of treatments involving stimulation of muscles and nerves. Several
studies using FES, sometimes combined with biofeedback or conventional physical
therapy, have shown increased improvement in functional motor activities although
improvements have been modest.16 FES has also been used as a sort of a electrical
orthosis to improve ankle dorsiflexion during the swing phase of gait in patients with
hemiparesis)7 Complex microprocessor-based multichannel stimulation using implanted
intramuscular electrodes has been used with limited success but remains controversial)8
Electromyographic(EMG) biofeedback to facilitate movement of paretic muscles,often
used in conjunction with traditional therapy programs, has been shown to be modestly
beneficial in some studies)9 An assessment of EMG biofeedback using a meta-analysis
of randomised studies between 1966 and 1991 suggested that biofeedback is effective
for neuromuscular re-education for stroke patients.2° Thaut and co-workers
demonstrated improved weight-bearing stance time on the paretic side and improved
stride rhythmicity when stroke patients walked to rhythmic music.2' Various forms of
sensory stimulation have been suggested toenhance motor recovery. Rapid skin brushing
and application of vibration are sometimes used in association with therapy sessions to
induce movement in paretic limbs22 but whether long range benefit is produced remains
unclear. Acupuncture treatment accompanied by electrical stimulation have been shown
to improve balance , mobility skills, and ability to perform ADL's with sustained
improvements for up to one year.23'24 The investigators hypothesized that acupunctureinduced sensory stimulation promoted neuronal integration at the cortical level. The use
of drugs to promote motor recovery may become increasingly important in the future.
Because amphetamine improves motor function in animals, a similar beneficial effect
may be seen in stroke patients. Although one pilot study reportedfavorable results26,
further trials are needed. More importantly perhaps, many commonly used drugs like
benzodiazepines, phenytoin and haloperidol may impede motor recovery in laborotory
animals and humans.27 A retrospective study indicated that these drugs are frequently
prescribed in patients with stroke. Spasticity frequently accompanies hemiparesis but
is seldom the limiting factor in motor recovery. When spasticity is accompanied by
mass spasms, severe clonus, pain, or contractures, treatment is indicated. Simple physical
measures such as prolonged static stretching, passive range of motion or splinting should
always be atempted first. Further dantrolene, diazepam and baclofen may be tried.29
For spasticity in an isolated group of muscles, local injection of botulinum toxin is under
active investigation.30
There is a general consensus that in many stroke survivors rehabilitation improves the
long term outcome and quality of life. Unfortunately, adequate facilities for inpatient
rehabilitation do not exist in India nor is domiciliary treatment practicable due to lack of
qualified personnel. The rehabilitation team should make a thorough assessment to
select the patients most likely to benefit from a rehabilitation programme who should
be kept admitted till they reach the plateau of progress. Patients can later visit the
hospital at regular intervals. There is also a great need for the formation of stroke clubs
at community levels. This has to be achieved by active awareness campaigns by
physicians, nurses, physiotherapists and the interested members of community.
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Anderson AL, Hanvik U, Brown JR. A statistical analysis of rehabilitation in
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Lehman JF, Delateur BJ, Fowler RS et al. Stroke: Does rehabilitation affect outcome? Arch
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Ernst E. A review of stroke rehabilitation and physiotherapy. Stroke 1990; 21:1081.
Millikan CH, McDowell F, Easton JD.Rehabilitation from stroke.In: Stroke .Lea and
Fabinger,Philadelphia 1987: 207.
Hecht J. Rehabilitation after stroke. In: Grotta GC (ed). Stroke clinical update,National
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Yatsu FM (eds). Stroke:
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Traumatic Brain Injury
B. Indira Devi
Traumatic Brain Injury (TB!) is a leading cause of short and long term morbidity and
mortality. With rapid growth of population, without adequate infrastructure and safe
transport, the problem is on the increase. Most patients of TBI have a protracted
course of rehabilitation. It is the neurobehavioural outcome, rather than the neurological
deficits which are really taxing to the patient and the family.
The victims of road accidents are motor vehicle occupants (51%), pedestrians 28%
and motorcyclists'. Introduction of helmets and seat belts has reduced the occurrence
of intracranial haematomas, concession and skull fractures 2• Better roads, safe driving
and mass education about pedestrian ways may reduce the road accidents. An analysis
of 1119 patients with TB! admitted to the University of Edinburgh, Scotland during
1981, showed that severe injuries were caused by Road traffic accidents 3.In India,
children are injured equally frequently by fall from height and road traffic accidents. It
has been suggested that alcohol may potentiate brain damage after TB!. Studies by
been inconclusive. It is generally agreed that prompt and correct early
Nath et al
management of TB! patient reduces the secondary insults to the brain which directly
contribute to the residual deficits. Though rehabilitation of TB! patients starts in the
acute phase, soon after the resuscitation, it may continue for months and years and
some times life long.
Pathology of closed TB!
One of the major changes in understanding the closed head injury has been the concept
of Diffuse Axonal Injury. Wide spread damage to the brain due to primary injury perse,
not due to secondary insults of herniation or perfusion deficits ,is now widely accepted.
Though first named so by Adams , it was described by Strich '. There is microscopic
axonal swelling due to retraction .Grossly there are haemorrhagic and necrotic lesions
of corpus callosum, Dorsolateral quadrant of rostral pons. Long term conginitive deficits
may also result from acute subdural haematomas, contusions and intracerebral
Early Assessment and outcome
A survey of the available literature shows that there is lack of uniformity in defining the
terms involved in morbidity or disability. Norsell found that awareness depends on the
normal activity in the cerebral cortex . But the relationship between cortical activity
and awareness is found to be conditional. Wakefulness is probably best used to indicate
the level of reactivity and the term arousal is probably best used for changes in reacting.
Signs of wakefulness and arousal do not indicate awareness by the individual of a
situation or condition. Various coma scales have been recommended for defining the
consciousness level. The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS )is at present the most widely
used and accepted scale (Table 1). It is perhaps inadequate and insensitive for monitoring
patients who are likely to deteriorate. Traiging is very important in the early management.
Patients with TBI can be categorised into 4 grades (Table 2)
Table 1 Glasgow Coma Scale
Eye opening (E)
4- Opens eyes spontaneously
3- Opens eyes to voice
2- opens eyes to pain
1- No eye opening
Best Motor Response - M
6- obeys commands
5- Localizes to pain
4- Withdraws to pain
3- Abnormal Flexor response
2- Abnormal extensor response
- No movement
Best verbal response-V
5-Appropriate and Oriented
4-Confused conversations
3- Inappropriate words
2- Incomprehensible words
1-No sound
Epidemiological studies show that incidence of TBI is 200/100,000. Fifteen percent
die before reaching the hospital. Among the patients reaching hospital, 10% have
severe TBI, 10% have moderate TB! and 80% have minor TBI. Of the moderately
injured patients, 7% die in hospital, 67% required acute rehabilitation services. About
10% severely head injured remains vegetative.
Table 2 Classification of patients with ThI
Grade - I
Transient loss of consciousness (<5 mm) now alert
oriented without neurological deficit. GCS 14-15
Grade - II
Previous loss of consciousness (<5 mm) now
impaired consciousness but able to follow at least a
simple command no other neurological deficits GCS 9-13
Grade - III
Previously unresponsive (<5 mm) now not
following even a simple command. Pupils unequal
inappropriate words. GCS< 9.
Grade - IV
No evidence of brain function (brain death).
Diaschisis and recovery:
Following TB! recovery of neurologic function may occur without actual neuronal
regeneration. A patient with monoplegia may learn to walk again without any recovery
of motor function in the paralysed limb. Functional recovery vs necrologic recovery
may be difficult to distinguish but such a distinction is useful because Pharmacologic
intervention may influence both. Von Monakow proposed the term diaschisis to explain
temporary or permanent dormancy of function of associated areas after localised brain
damage. The necrologic deficit seen after brain injury may be contributed by dormancy
of associated parts of the brain. With time, this dormancy may be overcome and result
in functional or necrologic recovery. Dendritic sprouting both collateral and regenerative
may occur in course of time and contribute to recovery. The present state of
understanding the neural recovery (necrologic or functional) is incomplete.
Prognostic indicators
The overall objective of TBI care is to minimize the occupance of avoidable mortality
and morbidity and most avoidable mortality is due to delayed diagnosis and management
of intracranial haematoma or overlooking of systemic extracranial events. As the salvage
rate of severe TBI improves and the resources become more limited, ethical and scientific
issues will be redefined. It is desirable to predict outcome so that further management
can be planned. Mild and moderate disability can perhaps be avoided by proper
management. Two factors of greatest significance in determining outcome are severity
of injury and age of patient
The GCS is reduced proportionately by shock or hypoxia. The predictive power of
GCS is such that the acute influence of shock and hypoxia on neurological function is
incorporated into a priori. Patients with a GCS of 3-5 has mortality rates in excess of
60%. The addition of brainstem function tests to the GCS does not change the initial
prediction. Development of pupillary abnormality in the presence of preserved brainstem
functions worsens the prognosis. A mortality of 100% is observed when a systolic
blood pressure of less than 95 mmHg ,pao2 of less than 65 mmHg, GCS of less
than 7 and an intracranial pressure more than 3OmmHg. Bradycardia of less than 50
per minute at admission is associated with increased likelihood of death severe disability.
A patient with mass lesion has a poor outcome than the one with diffuse swelling. A CT
scan showing a midline of more than 10mm, absent basal cisterns, small ventricles are
also predictors of poor outcome9'°
Jennet suggested that too much attention has probably been paid to very severely injured
patients both in acute stage and during rehabilitation". Physicians and therapists involved
in rehabilitation are subject to pressures from family and friends and patient regarding
the establishment of prognosis, need for long term rehabilitation, prolonged coma
management and decision to treat or not to treat at various stages. Survivors of the TBI
make variable recovery over a variable period. Some of the patients are left with sequelae
12-15 and need long term medical and rehabilitation services.
Post traumatic epilepsy
Incidence of epilepsy following TBI is variable and depends upon a number of factors.
Early post traumatic epilepsy is defined as one or more seizures occurring within one
week of head injury. About 25% of patients with early post traumatic epilepsy have
late seizures. Intradural mass lesions have 30-36% incidence of early epilepsy.
Occurrence of early epilepsy complicate management of head injured patients. Not
only it necessitates CT scans to evaluate the patient's neurological condition, it also
may cause aspiration pneumonia. A mild injury with early epilepsy has 25% chance of
late seizures.
Late post traumatic epilepsy occurs one week after injury. It causes significant disability.
It also causes severe medical, economic, social and psychological consequences
complicating rehabilitation. It lessens chance for gainful employment after rehabilitation.
There is no effective prophylaxis for post traumatic epilepsy. Since late post traumatic
seizures diminish with time, surgery is not indicated till 2 years after injury.
Post concussion syndrome:
This refers to a variety of symptoms such as headache , dizziness, forgetfulness, anxiety
and impaired concentration following minor head injury. There are no neurological
signs. The headaches are characterised by their variability. The symptoms lasting only
a few days or weeks are due to local injury or subtle structural brain injury. Psychological
factors play more important role in longer lasting headaches. Most patients need
reassurance and encouragement to get over the problem. Psychiatric assistance is
required when the symptoms last longer than 2-3 months. Other psychiatric problems
seen in these patients are alcohol abuse, psychosis, mania, depression, sexual deviations
and sleep disorders.
Cognitive impairment
Glasgow outcome scale is used to grade overall recovery and adjustment to daily life
after TBI. However quality of intellectual and psychological recovery has not been
qualified in many of the studies. In a study by Rimel among patients of moderate head
injury with a GCS of 9-12 of 6 hours after admission, 90% had impaired memory and
at 3 months only 31% were employed1 8'19.For the majority of TBI patients improvement
of intelligence does not play a role of practical importance. Temporary intellectual
impairment may be due to increased mental fatigue id slowness. Permanent impairment
is found in patients with very severe TBI. On the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale
(WAIS)'7, performance test show more of the deficits than the verbal tests. A post
traumatic amnesia of 5 weeks or more results in more permanent intellectual impairment.
Though individual cases show variation in rate of recovery, greatest improvement occurs
soon after injury. In severely injured recovery may not begin for 5-7 months.
The Neuropsychological assessment identify the cognitive deficits. The cognitive retraing
attempts to overcome these deficits. The crucial first step is creation of insight about the
impairments in the patients. The compensatory approach try to circumvent the effects
of cognitive impairments in daily activities. If possible a spared function is used to
compensate for a impaired skill. The patients are specifically trained for the desired
functions. The environment is kept structured .The cognitive remediation is a cognitive
process specific approach. The therapist targets distinct theoretical components of a
function. The tasks are attempted in a hierarchial manner. However learning a task in
the therapy setting may not generalize to other circumstances or other related tasks.
Computers may be used for cognitive retraining. It allows accurate serial measurements.
The computer helps in keeping the test situations constant. The tests, scores and cues
will be consistent. The task difficulty can be set based on the patients performance. The
computer assisted programmes help to perform therapy with only intermittent supervision.
Memory impairment
Loss of memory is a core symptom of TBI and show variable recovery. Two types of
amnesia are usually recognised viz retrograde and anterograde amnesia. Memory may
show greatest improvement after 4-6months, the residual impairment is of forgetfulness
Retrograde a,nnesia: In this the patient cannot remember the events that occurred
during the period preceding the accident. There is some evidence to suggest that the
memory is irretrievable. Some of the events can be recalled when the patient recovers.
Retrograde amnesia is probably not of practical importance, except that more severe
the injury results in longer lasting retrograde amnesia.
Posttraumatic amnesia: When a patient regains consciousness after TBI, he may be
unable to record new information. Brooks13 has defined the post traumatic amnesia as
the interval between injury and regaining continuous day to day memory with intact
orientation. In assessing the post traumatic amnesia in a retrospective way, one must be
aware of two pitfalls. One is that the patient maybe unconscious for a while and will
not have any memories of this period. The second pit fall is the "Island of Memory".
An island of memory is said to be present when a patient reports a single trivial incident
even though he may not have full memory. Presence of post traumatic amnesia also
indicates the severity of injury. The relative inability to record events or information
given to the patient is called as anterograde amnesia. The digit span is not a valid test of
memory. Many TBI patients obtain near normal scores even in the presence of amnesias
Interventions for amnesia include internal strategies and external reminders. The internal
strategies include rehearsal ,mental retracing, visual imagery ,mnemonics and associations.
The external reminders include: Time reminders: Alarm clock, telephone, organisers,
diary, wall planner and calender, and Person reminders: Name tags, dressing patterns,
uniforms, Place reminders: Labels, codes, colours and symbols and Other reminders:
Lists, tape recorders, pagers and care givers and relatives.
Behavioural changes
Changes in personality and social behaviour are common among survivors of TBI.
Injury to subfrontal and anterior temporal region produces disinhibition, lack of insight,
childishness, apathy and inertia. Neurobehavioural impairment is usual in patients with
moderate and severe TBI. Even in patients with moderate TBI and post traumatic
amnesia exceeding 48 hours , irritability agitation and anger was reported at 12 months.
In severe TBI the changes may remain permanently. The cognitive impairment and
personality changes contribute to the negative social integration of the patient One of
the late sequelae is social isolation.
The interventions for behavioural problems after TBI include search and treat
precipitating and aggravating problems like pain, urinary retention and seizures, reduce
drugs causing confusion, behavioural modification , Psychotherapy , antipsychotics and
short acting tranquilizers. The behaviour modification include identification of target
behaviour, reinforcement of the desired behaviour with rewards, token economy and
supportive and non threatening therapy sessions. The Psychotherapy sessions attempt
to improve awareness and insight, accept the disabilities , improve motivation , set
realistic goals and regain self control. The drugs used for the treatment of aggression
include anticonvulsants, antidepressants, beta blockers, lithium, neuroleptic,
benzodiazepines, clonidine, verapamil, d-amphetamine, methyl phenadi ate and pemoline.
Drugs which are said to augment neurologic recovery, probably do so by improving
attention and thereby learning a target oriented task. These drugs may also help resolve
diaschisis and help activate latent cerebral circuitry. Some of the agents used with variable
success include amphetamine , dopaminergic agents and gangliosides.On the other hand
drugs which adversely influence functional outcome may do so by increasing transsynaptic
neural cell death, by inhibiting sprouting of new path ways and neural connection&8.
Common drugs alleged to have adverse effects include benzodiazepines, barbiturates
,major tranquilizers and antihypertensives. Use of pharmacological manipulationsof
necrologic outcome is more of an art than science. Drugs which cause adverse outcome
can be avoided or used only when really required. Use of pharmacological manipulations
of necrologic outcome is more of an art than science. Drugs which cause adverse
outcome can be avoided or used only when really required.
In spite of vast advances in understanding TBI , the mechanisms of recovery and
outcome are still uncertain. Though the present picture is not dismal the best alternative
remains prevention.
Clive ID. Patterns of injury in motor vehicle trauma . N Z Med J 1986; 99:905.
Nygren A, Hansson PG, Tingvall C, et al. Epidemiology of head injuries in Sweden .Acta
neurochir 1986; 86(Suppl): 10.
Miller JD. Minor, moderate and severe head injury. Neurosurg Rev 1986; 9:135.
Nath FP , Beastal U and Teasdale U. Alcohol and traumatic brain damage. Injury 1986,17:150.
Norrsell U. Awareness wakefulness and arousal. ActaNeurochir 1986; 36(Suppl): 86.
Price DJ. Factors restricting the use of come scales. Acta Neurochir 1986; 36 (Suppl): 106.
Adam JH, Graham DI, Murray LS, Scott G. Diffuse axonal injury due to nonmissile head
injury in humans; An analysis of 45 cases. Ann Neurol 1981; 12:557.
Stritch SJ. Diffuse degeneration of the cerebral white matter in severe dementia following
head injury. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 1956; 19:163.
Jennett. Resources for mild moderate and severe head injury patients. Acta neurochir;
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Jennett B, Teasdale G, Management of Head Injuries. F.A. Davis Philadelphia 1981: 95.
LangfittTW. Measuring the outcome from head injuries .J Neurosurg 1978; 48:673.
Young B. Sequelae of head injury . In Wilkins RH Rangachary SS (eds), Neurosurgery
Volume 2, Mcgraw-Hill Book Company., New York 1985 :1688.
Brooks DN. Memory and head injury. J Nev Ment Dis 1972 ;155:350.
Guidice MA and Berehow RC. Post traumatic epilepsy following head injury. Brain Injury
1987; 1:61.
Jasper HH. Physiopathological mechanisms of post traumatic epilepsy. Epilepsia 1970; 11:7380,
Levin HS and Goldstein FC.Organization of verbal memory after severe closed head injury.
J Clin Exp Neuropsychol 1986; 8: 643.
Wechsler D.The measurement and appraisal of adult intelligence. Williams and Wilkins
Baltimore 1958.
Rimel RW, Giordani B, Barth JT, Boll Ti, Jane JA. Disability caused by minor head injury
Neurosurgery 1981; 9:221.
Rimel RW, Giordani B, Barth JT, Jane JA. Moderate Head Injury completing the clinical
spectrum of brain trauma. Neurosurgery 1982; 11: 344.
Schallert T, Hevnadez TD and Barth TM. Recovery of function after brain damage: Severe
and chronic disruption by diazepam. Brain res 1986; 379: 104.
Rehabilitation of Spinal cord injuries
B. P. Gardner
Prior to World War H most spinal cord injured patients succumbed soon after injury.
Those who survived were often institutionalised, their lives impoverished and frequently
bedridden. The establishment of systems of comprehensive care, pioneered by the
National Spinal Injuries Centre in Stoke Mandeville Hospital, dramatically altered this
situation. 1.2
Spinal cord injury affects every system of the body. Successful rehabilitation depends
on the effective management of all aspects. Failure of care in any area results in
unnecessary morbidity and morality. Following spinal cord injury thereis a complex
interaction within a multi-system disorder. The greatest threat to the successful
rehabilitation of the patient is fragmentation of case. To avoid this, systems of care were
developed, first in the United Kingdom and later in Australia, New Zealand, the United
States of America and Canada, where all aspects of treatment are addressed. In the
former three all facets of medical care following the Accident and Emergency Department
phase are dealt with in one centre. In the latter the systems involve acute care in one
hospital followed by subacute and chronic care elsewhere, resulting in some adverse
consequences when compared with the unified system but overall resulting in much
improved outcomes compared with care that is either fragmented or carried out by
those lacing the required insights and training
In the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland the Clinical Service
Specifications of Modern Spinal Cord ?iave been laid out. They are listed in the
Concluding Section of this Chapter. A multi-disciplinary approach is essential if the
optimum rehabilitation outcome is to be achieved.
A spinal cord injury is complete if there is no somatic motor or sensory function below
the level of injury. If the arms are spared the patient has paraplegia. If they are involved
he has tetraplegia. 5 The level of injury is the lowest intact spinal cord segment. 2 If
there is residual function several segments below this then the injury is incomplete and
the patient has either paraparesis or tetrparesis. Use of the terms quadriplegia and
quadriparesis should be avoided.
The incidence of traumatic spinal cord injury varies in different countries and series
between 10 and 50 per million in the population each year.6 The figure in the UK is
towards the lower end of this range.
The two components relevant to rehabilitation are first the prevention of the injury itself
and second the avoidance of the secondary deleterious effects that are the consequence
of poor care.
Spinal cord injury is most commonly caused by motor vehicle accidents. Seat belts,
both front and rear, side impact support systems and inflation bags reduce the incidence
and severity of injury. Sports related injuries are uncommon but devastating. In the
United Kingdom the commonest sporting causes of spinal injury are, in order of frequency,
diving, rugby and horse-riding. Diving related injuries can be prevented in part by good
education, appropriate pool design, adequate poolside signs and appropriate supervision.
Pool attendants should be trained in safe methods of retrieval. Rugby injuries can be
reduced by adherence to the rules of the game, the avoidance of participants playing
out of position and ensuring that players are suitably fit.
Avoidance of the secondary deleterious effects that are a consequence of poor care is
dependent first on the recognition that a spinal injury has, or may have, occurred and
second on knowledge of an expertise in the correct actions to take. It is all too common
for spinal injuries to be missed with consequent deleterious effects on the spinal cord
and impaired rehabilitation outcome. Toscano showed that the State of Victoria in
Australia, 26% of spinal cord injured patients sustained major neurological deterioration
between the times of injury and of admission into the Austin Hospital Spinal Unit in
Melbourne. The site of the major neurological deterioration was the accident site in
9.4%, the initial ambulance assessment and ambulance transport to the local hospital in
28.1%, the local hospital in 53.1% and the transport to the spinal unit in 6.3%.7 The
more the spinal cord is damaged the less complete is its recovery and the worse the
rehabilitation outcome.
Clinical management
Optimum rehabilitation outcome depends on good management of the many facets that
affect the spinal cord injured person. Accurate diagnosis isessential. Rehabilitation
outcome is adversely affected when spinal fractures are missed. Common sites where
fractures are overlooked include the cervicodorsal junction and spinal fractures below
the major one. Adequate radiological evaluation may not be possible immediately after
the accident. If there are reasonable grounds for believing thatthe patient has sustained
an unstable spinal injury then appropriate steps must be taken to immobilise the spine
until such time as the diagnosis can be confirmed of refuted.8
1. Management
of associated injuries
Associated injuries must be well treated ensure optimum rehabilitation outcome.
Amongst the more important are the following:
a. Brain: Successful rehabilitation following spinalcord injury is dependent on the total
involvement of the disabled person. Impairment of personality, memory, concentration
and intellect can profoundly alter outcome. Good executive function is of particular
importance in enabling the spinal cord injured person tolead a safe and well-integrated
life. Relatively minor degrees of higher cerebral impairment can interactwith the other
problems associated with spinal cord injury to make safe independent livingand successful
employment much more difficult.
b. Limb joints and bones: Spinal cord damaged persons are more dependent on their
arms than prior to injury. Joint damage, and to a lesser extent longbone fractures, can
severely impair transfers and wheelchair skills. Contractures and frequently verydisabling.
Because armjoints, especially the shoulders, are put under stress by the routine activities
of wheelchair life, problems commence in them at an earlier age. The onset ofthese
difficulties is accelerated by damage sustained at the time injury.
c. Peripheral nerve injuries, especially brachial plexus: Peripheral nerve and brachial
plexus injuries occur in association with the spinal cord injury. Paraplegics requireboth
arms for most activities. The affected arm cannot cope so well with transfers and
wheelchair control. The functional impact can be reduced by trick movements that may
take years to develop.
d. Chest and abdominal: Chest and abdominal injuries, through life threatening at the
time of the original event, are seldom important in rehabilitation terms as they do not
often result in an increased requirement for care or equipment.
2. Neurology
The level, degree of completeness and pattern of the spinal cord injury are of central
importance in determining rehabilitation outcome and prognosis.9"0" There is no level
of neurological disability, including ventilator dependency, that is incompatible with life
in the community. 12
Whilst poor spinal and general care can cause neurological deterioration, the only specific
treatment for the spinal cord in the acute phase which may produce a positive
rehabilitation outcome is methylprednisolone.'3 Opinion is divided as to whether or not
the harmful effects of the very high doses of steroids required outweigh the relatively
small benefits.
Incomplete spinal cord injuries are associated with the lessened risk to life. Preserved
sensation enables the paralysed person to become aware of complications as they arise
below the level of injury. Complete spinal cord injured persons also learn to recognise
signals coming from the paralysed and denervated parts of the body but these are less
precise. It is not just pressure sores but also other complications such as intra-abdominal
events and long bone fractures which are recognised in this way.
Neurological level
The neurological level injury is the most important determinant of rehabilitation outcome.
Each segmental level in the cervical region in particular is of vital importance. Patients
with complete lesions at C3 and above require a greater or lesser degree of ventilatory
support, such as intermittent positive pressure ventilation and phrenic nerve pacing.
Less widely used techniques include intercosto-phrenic nerve anastamosis and artificial
ventilation by mouth. C4 level patients can almost always breathe independently but
are otherwise almost totally dependent. Electric wheelchair mobility and control of the
environment 'via the Possum and other systems is achievable using retained head and
neck control. C5 level patients have good shoulder control as well as elbow flexion.
With aids, such as feeding straps, limited function is possible. Assistance is still required
with every activity.
Elbow extension can be achieved by
C6 level patients have good wrist dorsiflexion.
means of trick movements. By lockingthe elbow, transfers are sometimes possible.
Wrist dorsiflexion is associated with passive tenodesis of the fingers and the thumb.
Upper limb reconstructive procedures can be of great benefit at this level of injury.
Active elbow extension can be achieved by the Moberg posteriordeltoid to triceps
transfer operation. A stronger and more active key grip can be achieved by tendon
transfers around the wrist, such as insertion of the extensor carpi radialis longus into
flexor digitorum profundus and the brachio-radialiS into flexor pollicis longus. These
procedures do not usually increase transfer capability but they do improve upper limb
control and so lead an improved quality of life.'4C7 and C8 level patients lack fine
intrinsic hand muscle control but have sufficient upperlimb function to achieve some
independence in transfers and activities of daily living.
Upper thoracic, T2 to T6, level patientslack the abdominal and lower paraspinal muscle
control that is essential to achieve good truncal balance. Backwheel balance control
and transfers are impaired as a result. Spontaneous spasms are likely to cause problems
in transfers. Ambulation in long leg calipers is difficult. Braces that stabilise the upper
body, such as the reciprocating and hip guidance orthoses, are usually required if
ambulation is to achieved.
Lower thoracic, T7 to T 12, patients have greater abdominal and paraspinal muscle
control and hence better truncal balance. Higher kerbs can be negotiated because
better backwheel balance are possible.
this is seldom of functional benefit.
LI level patients frequently achieve ambulation though
The good quadriceps control of the mid-lumbar level person usually allows functional
ambulation in younger patients.
Longer term neurological consequences.
In recent years it has become clear that the incidence of tertiary spinal cord change is
much commoner than had previously been recognised.These changes continue to develop
throughout the life of the spinal cord injured person. The most important is the spinal
cord syrinx. The previously quoted incidence of syrnix formation of 2 and 4 per cent
was largely based on clinical diagnosis. It is now clear that the incidence of syrnix is
much greater than this because the majority do not have diagnostic clinical features. In
a recent study in Stoke Mandeville Hospital of 153 patients whose spinal cord injury
was injured more than 20 years ago, the overall incidence of syrnix formation was 20
per cent. The longer the patient is injured the more likelyhe is to have symix)5
The presence of syrnix has important consequences for rehabilitation. If a person has a
spinal cord symix then he should alter his lifestyle so as to avoid those abrupt stresses,
strains and other events that could cause serious spinal cord deterioration. Falling from
the wheelchair in a poorly executed transfer for example can be associated with loss of
the use of a hand or an arm. A patient with a spinal cord syrnix needs a greater degree
of care assistance because he must avoid the risks associated with syrnix deterioration,
such as falls during transfers.
The aetiology and management of syrnixes remains controversial. 16 Surgery is not
usually required continued review is essential a neurosurgeon with a specialist interest in
the spinal cord injured is an essential member of the mutlidisciplinary team.
3. Spine
Following the acute event spinal problems are not usually an issue. Arthritis may occur
at an earlier stage in the intact spinal joints above and below the injured segment. This
can give rise to increased spinal pain and stiffness in older years. The contributes to the
greater dependence that arises with aging. Deformities such as gibbus are seldom
functionally important.
Long spinal fixations can be very disabling. A young person with paraplegia and a long
fixation is usually totally independent in his younger years but when he is older his loss
of truncal mobility cannot be so readily compensated for by increased movement in his
hips. This brings forward the stage at which his dependence increases. Long fixations in
the cervical region prevent the tetraplegic from looking around himself, making driving
a care more difficult.Around 10 per cent of spinal injured patients have fractures at
multiple levels. Those below the level of the main injury are important if they cause
neurological damage or scoliosis. For example, a complete cervical spinal cord injured
person with an LI fracture must have the latter carefully treated if important reflex
bladder, bowel and sexual functions are to be retained.
Progressive skeletal deformity is a particular problem in children. Regular careful review
of their spinal position is required unit skeletal maturity. Whereas gibbus does not
significantly increase disability, scoliosis can be a significant problem. Sitting posture,
the pattern of pressure on the ischial areas and transfers areall impaired by scoliosis.
An orthopedic surgeon with a specialist interest in the spinal cord injured person is an
essential member of the multidisciplinary team.
4. Pain
Musculo-skeletal and neruogenic pains are common following spinal cord injury. They
can be intractably disabling. Treatment is frequently difficult.'7 Sometimes the pain
makes it necessary for patients to shift from one position to another or to lie down at
intervals during the day. Employment can be difficult for this reasonand also because of
the effect on concentration of the pain itself and its associated medication. An anaesthetist
with a specialist interest in the spinal cord injured person is an essentialmember of the
multidisciplinay team. Neurosurgical intervention is rarely required.Behavioural
approaches usually offer the best prospect for the patient learning to cope with his
5. Bladder
a. Lower Urinary Tract: Bladder sensation andcontrol are impaired by spinal cord
injury. The precise pattern of bladder managementvaries with the individual.'8 All
methods of bladder care are associated with events that can be distressing and
inconvenient. With intermittent self catheterisation there is incontinence andtoilets are
frequently inaccessible. With automatic drainage the urinary sheath occasionally comes
of causing the patient to become soaked and minor penile problems prevent application
of the sheath forcing the patient to remain in bed or to insert an indwelling catheter.
When the partial bladder control remains there is often adegree of urgency and frequency
that seriously impairs the patient's quality of life, for example by forcing him to planhis
journey according to the location of accessible toilets. Oxybutinin may help in these
cases. Bladder management in females in particularly difficult.There are no satisfactory
external collecting appliances. The risk of incontinence and the awareness that there
may be a smell of urine impairs self-confidenceand femininity.
A variety of urological procedures exist that benefit certain groups of patients. The
more commonly used included augmentation cystoplasty, distal urethral sphincterotomy,
the artificial urinary sphincter and the Brindley sacral anterior root stimulator. Thelatter
is of particular benefit in females)9
Many patients elect to have indwelling suprapubic or urethral catheters. Although
associated with increased risk because of the inevitable infection, the quality of life of
the patients is often improved by this method. Indwelling bladder catheter associated
problems include bladder stones, intravescial bladder changes,uretheral discharges
and the problems associated with catheter blockage, especially autonomic dysreflexia.
b. Upper Urinary Tract: Continued vigilance of the upper urinary tract is required
throughout the life of the paralysed person.'8 Asymptomatic upper tract problems such
as calculi and dilatation can occur. The pattern of review that is requiredvaries with the
individual. An annual evaluation will usually suffice to ensure early diagnosis and treatment
before problems arise. Improved urological techniques, such as percuatneous and whole
body lithotripsy, have reduced the morbidity of upper tract stones.
Experienced nurses are important sources of advice and help with incontinence aids
and appliances. A urological surgeon with a specialist interest in the spinal cord injured
person is an essential member of the multidisciplinary team.
6. Bowels
Upper gastrointestinal problems are seldom significant. Faecal evacuation by contrast
is usually a major problem. Most patients require suppositories or digital stimulation.
Some require aperients. A disciplined pattern of bowel control is essential. Episodes of
incontinence occur and can be very distressing. They are minimised by attention to
discipline and the avoidance of precipitating factors such as hot curries and similar
Most paraplegics are able to mange their bowels by transferring onto the toilet followed
by suppository insertion of digital evacuation. The rectum needs to be checked after
bowel emptying to ensure that no faeces remain. Most tetraplegic need a greater or
lesser degree of assistance. Bowel evacuation whilst seated on a shower chair over the
toilet and followed by a shower at the end of evacuation is a commonly adopted pattern.
After the shower the patient dried. He then has his top half dressed whilst still seated on
the shower chair and his bottom half dressed after onto the bed.
Bowel problems are common in chronic spinal cord injury. Faecal evacuation may
take a progressively longer time. Aperients become less effective. The life of the paralysed
person can be greatly disrupted. Nurses are the key team members advising on bowel
care following spinal cord injury. An active peripatetic nursing service that offers
telephone advice can be a welcome source of continued support to patientsin this very
difficult and under-researched area.
7. Joints
Wear and tear on upper limb joints is increased. As paraplegic patients get older,
episodes of upper limb joint pain and stiffness occur with increasing frequency, especially
in the shoulder girdle.
Heterotopic ossification can occur in the early stage following injuly.2' Hip mobility can
be severely impaired. Transfers and activities of daily living become more difficult. The
ossification process eventually becomes quiescent. Surgery is rarely required. It should
only be undertaken after ascertaining that there is no residual bony activity. There is a
small place for radiotherapy immediately following excision of the abnormal tissue.
Contractures interfere with independent living, effective mobility and transfers. They
give rise to pain and disability. In tetraplegics, contractures of the shoulders, elbows
and wrists are a particular problem. In paraplegics, lower limb contractures frequently
prevent ambulation and interfere with transfers.
Therapy to joint is essential at all stages following spinal cord injury, and especially in
the acute phase. Splinting of hands and correct positioning of shoulders and elbows can
prevent unnecessary upper limb morbidity. Physiotherapy and occupational therapy
staff should establish the treatments which can then be continued by the patient, carers
and family.
In the chronic spinal cord injured persons long bone fractures can occur following
relatively minor trauma, such as the leg twisting off the foot-plate of the wheelchair.
Simple splinting, such as with a Robert-Jones bandage often suffices. Internal fixation
often fails because of the inadequacy of the osteoporotic bones and the development of
pressure sores that may prove very difficult to heal.
8. Spasms
Spasms and spasticity are usual accompaniments of spinal cord injury. They are
sometimes helpful but more usually a hindrance. They cause embarrassment when out
of doors. They can be dangerous if they occur abruptly during a transfer or when
driving. The sleep of both the paralysed person and the partner is disturbed.The spasms
may throw the legs out of position in bed. Treatment of spasms includes eradication of
any precipitating cause, in particular intravescial and bowel related pathology, good
physiotherapy including standing, systemic drugs such as Baclofenand Dantrium, and,
in rare circumstances, operative intervention such as insertion of the intrathecal Baclofen
infusion system. 22
Systemic medication for spasticity has adverse effects. Baclofen causes drowsiness
and interferes with concentration. This has implications for quality of life and employment.
The intrathecal drug delivery systems have potential complications that can be serious.
Delivery tube dislodgment and kinking occurs necessitating revision. Pump replacement
is sometimes necessary, in particular with the battery driven types. For the management
of spasticity to be effective there must be expertise in the spinal cord injury centre in all
relevant physiotherapeutic, medical and surgical techniques. Intrathecal pump insertions
should only be carried out by those with experience.
9. Respiratory
Permanent ventilator dependent patients can live safely in the community provided that
they have sufficient care. 12 A trained carer must at all times be "in-line-of-eye" of the
ventilated person. This carer must be able to carry out tracheal suctioning, tracheostomy
replacement, ventilator reconnection and lug bagging. Alarms to summon help immediately
are required. With a portable ventilator, supplemented where appropriate by the phrenic
pacemaker and other systems, free movement out of door and including aircraft travel
can readily be achieved. High tetraplegic ventilated patients' value their lives even though
these are impoverished in physical terms.23
Mid and low cervical patients have good diaphragmatic control but no intercostal or
abdominal muscle function. Their cough is weak and may need to be assisted.
Physiotherapy may be required during chest infections. Respiratory impairment is the
most important increases risk to life in tetraplegics. Carers need to be carefully instructed
in the relief of choking, the assisted cough, postural drainage of the chest and clearance
of secretion. 24Mid-thoracic paraplegics lack a good cough because their abdominal
muscle control is absent. They require help with chest infections in their older years.
For the management of respiratory problems to be fully effective there must be a chest
physician available who has a special interest in the respiratory problems of the spinal
cord injured. Expert anesthetic support
safe as possible.
is required to make domiciliary ventilation as
io. Cardiovascular
Postural hypotensiOfl is a common problem in the early stage following spinal
injury. It is seldom disabling thereafter though tetraplegics may require
assistance with being tilted back when hypotensiOnoccurs. Autonomic
with injuries at T6 and above. It can be precipitated
a serious problem in all patients
the level of injury. The most common are those from the
by any stimulus arising beloW
bladder and the bowels. Some events, such as rectal electrostimulated semen
virulent stimuli. During autonomic
and vibrator induced ejaculation, are particularly
rise to dangerously high levels.
dysreflexic episodes the arterial
Patients describe that their heads are bursting open
Cardiac dysrhythmiaS may occur.
that a change of clothes or bedding in
with pain. Their sweating may be so profuse
necessary. Because tetraplegicscannot deal with the factors that precipitate
attack occur it
dysreflexia, care support needs tobe available to ensure that should an
is dealt with promptly and safely. It is essential that staff, patients, family and carers are
fully conversant with the diagnosis and treatment of this unpleasant and dangerous
In spite of immobility and leg dependency deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary
emboli and uncommon except in the early stage following injury. AnticoagulatiOn is
rarely required following the acute stage. 27Peripheral oedema and superficial
skin changes are common. Careful attention must to be paid to the feet so that cellulitis
and other complications are avoided. Chiropody is sometimes helpful. Risk factors
need to be regularly reviewed.
11. Skin
Immobility and loss of sensation contribute to the risk of pressure sores. Careful discipline
The insensitive skin must be
and good care will largely prevent their development.
inspected morning and evening. The minor red marks and skin abrasion that occur
during transfers are best treated by rest in bed until the skin has returned to
becomes less resilient and the risk of
With aging the skin and its underlying tissues
and then
pressure sores increases. Patients may go many years without a pressure sore
develop a serious one. During the acute stage following injury two-hourly turns in bed
are necessary. In the later stages such frequent turning is rarely required. Prone lying
an excellent way of maintaining the hips, minimising spasticity and preventing pressure
Paraplegics are usually able to turn in bed independently in their younger years. They
require increasing help as they get older. Various aids such as monkey poles are helpful.
Tetraplegics usually require assistance with turns from one or more persons. The required
time-gap between turns in bed at night depends on the individual.
Whether one or two persons are required for turn depends on the patient. In the British
Isles, European regulation must be applied. This often means that two carers are required
for activities, turns or transfers where, prior to these EEC ruling, one person sufficed.
The selection of the appropriate bed is important. The type required will change during
the lifetime of the person concerned. Variable height beds help carers by making transfers
easier. The ability to elevate the head of the bed is useful. Rotating beds are seldom
popular. Most patients prefer double beds with double mattresses that they can share
with their partners. Beds that appear normal are preferred to beds which, though
functional, retain a hospital ambience.
An appropriate mattress will increase the gap between turn and hence the burden on
the carers. Many different types are available. Some permit the patient to remain in one
position for long period. Unfortunately the latter can also make turns more difficult.
Many different types of cushions are available. The appropriate one for the individual
must be selected. A spare cushion should always be to hand in case the main one is
damaged. It must be borne in mind that in the prevention of pressure sores it is not just
the cushion and its characteristics which are important but the whole posture and seating
status of the patient. A Jay Back may be required tocorrect posture. The Jay Protector
enables patients to go up and down steps on their bottoms and to travel more safely in
vehicles when other methods of buttock support are not available.
The nursing staff of the Centre must be conversant with teaching patients, families and
carers techniques for lifting and turning. A posture and seating clinic linked to a pressure
clinic is essential to ensure that the optimum seating system for the patient is defined and
that the risk of pressure sores is kept to a minimum.
12. Sexual Function
Sexuality is severely impaired following spinal cord injury. A spinal cord injured man
sometimes feels incomplete because not only is normal sexual intercourse impossible
but also he cannot be a full husband, father and breadwinner, or be involved in masculine
activities. 29
attractive clothes as skirts is limited by the
leg-bag and the wheelchair. Urinary incontinence produce the sense of always being
Women can lose their self-respect. Wearing
surrounded by a smell of urine.
achieve erections including implants,
Although many approaches are available to
intracavernosal injection and external aids, the spontaneity, sensation and orgasm of
normal intercourse are lost. Sildenafil, a phosphodiesteraSe inhibitor that prevents the
breakdown of the cyclic GMP in penile corpus cavernosal smooth muscle, produces
effective erections in approximately 70% of impotent males when taken orally. It is not
yet available of general use.
Fertility in spinal cord injured men is usually severely impaired. Obtaining semen is
the first problem. Methods for achieving this include the penile vibrator, rectal
electrostimulated semen emission, vascannulation, micro-epididymal sperm aspiration
and the hypogastric plexus stimulator. The second and more important problem is
oligoasthenoSpermia. It is usually necessary for the services of a fertility centre to be
used if parenthood is to be achieved. This includes perpetration of the semen followed
by various treatments of the female partner to increase her fertility. Of the Current
techniques, intra-cyto-plasmic sperm injection (ICSI) has the highest success rate. With
ICSI, sperm motility is no longer important. Men without any motile sperm, such as
those who were pre-pubertal at the time of injury, may become fathers following
testicular biopsy. Female intercourse is possible but passive. Orgasmdoes not occur
except in women with lower levels of injury. Fertility is usually unimpaired.
Both male and female cord injured persons are unable to be parents in the full sense.
They cannot take their children out to the park or play with them as previously.
Relationships and marriages are under greater stress following spinal cord injury. The
prospects for maintaining and developing firm, lasting relationships are reduced. This is
particularly the case with young women.
The spinal cord injury service must have doctors, nurses and therapists who are
knowledgeable in the profound sexual problems whichfollow spinal cord injury. Sexuality
and fertility clinics are important. A gynecologist with a special interest in the particular
problems of the spinal cord paralysed woman is essential. Close liaison with an advanced
fertility clinic is mandatory if reasonable take-home-baby rates are to be achieved for
couples where the male partner is spinal cord injured.
13. Mobility
The wheelchair must be carefully selected. Expert occupational and physiotherapy
assessment is required. Different wheelchairs are necessary for different purposes. For
example, a sports wheelchair, a lightweight wheelchair and an outdoor electric wheelchair
may all be required by the same persons for use at different times. The pattern of
wheelchair requirement varies with the individual. It also changes with age. A young
tetraplegic can cope with a lightweight manual wheelchair indoors on level surfaces and
up shallow steps. In his older years he may require an electric wheelchair instead. The
range and type of wheelchairs that are available is enormous and constantly changing.
Before the appropriate wheelchair for an individual can be selected, it should be evaluated
in a practical setting.
The most sophisticated wheelchairs, such as the Permobil, allow control of the
environment using an infrared signalling system built into the wheelchair. These chairs
can also take portable ventilators. Alternatively they can provide a stand-up or a reclining
facility. The wheelchair must be integrated with an appropriate care for satisfactory
mobility out of doors. The patient must be able either to get the wheelchair in and out of
the car himself or to get into the vehicle whilst still seated in the wheelchair.
The selection of the appropriate vehicle and its control require careful assessment,
sometimes in a specialised centre. The individual characteristics of the patient must be
considered. For example, tall patients have a restricted range of vehiclehat they can
use whilst seated in their electric wheelchair. One adjunct that assists transfers in an out
of the car is the swivel seat. Car telephones are important because if the car breaks
down then the paraplegic person cannot easily get to a telephone. The care must well-
maintained as the paralysed person is so dependent on it. If the spinal cord injured
persons has not passed his driving test then it is mandatory that he does so. In general,
tetraplegics at the level of C5 and below are able to drive. Those at C5 usually required
ajoystick control. Some at C6 and most at C7 and below can cope with vehicles with
hand controls, automatic transmission, servo assisted brakes and power assisted steering.
Ambulation is seldom a functional form of mobility for paraplegics or tetraplegics but it
can be useful as a form of exercise. For persons with poor truncal balance, such as low
tetraplegics and higher thoracic paraplegics, the reciprocating or hip guidance orthoses,
which provide truncal support, are necessary. With lower levels of thoracic and with
upper lumbar levels of injury, the knee-anide-foot orthoses usuallysuffice. Those with
good quadriceps control usually cope with ankle-foot orthoses alone. The majority of
spinal cord injured patients who learn to ambulate soon cease to use their walking
devices. Few regret having mastered the
Public transports, such as overground and underground trains, and buses are difficult
or impossible. Air travel is usually feasible. There are a number of recreational mobility
vehicles, such as the three wheeler bicycle and the motorised quadbike. Children can
be placed at the back of the three wheeler bicycles. Those involved in country pursuits
need the quadbike for mobility over rough ground: A portable ramp is useful when
visiting friends or other places where ramped access is not available.
14. Transfers
This refers to the ways in which a paralysed person gets from one position to another.
Nearly all paraplegics become independent in level transfers. Most achieve the more
difficult ones such as from the easy chair into the wheelchair and out of the bath. The
most difficult transfers, such as getting from the floor into the wheelchair, and from the
floor into the upright position having fallen in calipers, are achieved by only the most
There is great individual variation between paraplegics in their capability with transfers.
Factors associated with reduced ability include increasing age, poor truncal balance,
spasticity, spasms, obesity and upper limb problems such as muscle strains, nerve injury
and joint contractures. Those with a low arm to trunk length ratio, for example
achondroplastics, seldom achieve independent transfers. A few low level tetraplegics
become totally independent in transfers, usually with the aid of a sliding board. Most
require help. The minimum pattern of help required by each individual is best determined
following a course of rehabilitation in a spinal cord injury unit. The key members of the
team here are the occupational and physical therapists. 32Hoits are important transfer
aids. Portable hoists are versatile but ceiling mounted ones take up less room.
Strengthening of the ceiling is required with the latter.
15. Activities of Daily Living
This refers to the normal activities of daily life which the able-bodied take for granted.
The occupational therapy department is vital in this area. B In general, paraplegics are
independent whilst tetraplegics are partially dependent, usually in lower half activities
such as washing, dressing arid personal hygiene. Obesity, poor truncal balance, increasing.
age, upper limb musculo-skeletal problems, spasms, spasticityand short arms all reduce
ADL ability.
Higher level tetraplegics benefit substantially from environmental control systems.
Provided that the person can voluntarily control in an accurate and predictable manner
a single muscle then he can control his environment, such as opening and closing curtains
and suing the telephone. An expert is required to advise each individual regarding which
system is most appropriate to his needs. The optimum application is best determined at
a home visit. The system should usually be in the bedroom, living room and study. Most
paraplegics and tetraplegics benefit from a remote control door-opener. If a paraplegic
is sitting in an easy chair and someone calls at the house, he does not have the time to
transfer into his wheelchair to open the door. Paraplegics are usually able to manage the
shower seat. Higher level paraplegics and low tetraplegics and low tetraplegics find the
shower chair system more helpful, as described above. Most paraplegics can manage
a normal bath whilst they are young. This becomes more difficult with aging. A bathboard may then help. Eventually a specialised bath may be required to relieve the carer.
16. Psychology
The effects of sudden paralysis, potential incontinence, impotence, infertility, loss of
personal relationships and all the other manifestations of spinal cord damage, insinuate
into every facet of the person's life. The impact can be devastating. In spite of this,
depression is not a major consequence of spinal cord injury and suicide is not much
commoner in the spinal cord injured population compared with the able-bodied. Most
paraplegic and tetraplegic persons who have been through a spinal cord injury unit
have learned to minimise the effect of their disability, they seldom concentrate on what
they cannot do. Children in particular adapt well. Counselling may be helpful at various
stages though it is usually resisted.
The psychologist in the multidisciplinary team has an important role not only in diagnosing
and treating patients but also in assisting family and centre staff to deal with the enormous
psychological and emotional strains that surround spinal cord injury. A psychiatrist with
a special interest is essential both because psychiatric conditions such as depression
and schizophrenia can result in traumatic spinal cord injury and because the threat of
suicide may arise in the early months after
17. Family
The enormouS impact of paralysis onthe family including parents, siblings, spouses
of parents
children must be considered Relationships can be destroyed The old age
cord injured
can be shattered by paralysis in their children. The ability of the spinal The adverse
person to be a true father, wife, husband or mother is severely impaired.
who sometimes feels guilty for the suffering
effects on the family rebound on the patient
cause. 35The view that family members should look after their spinal cord injured
relative is no longer widely accepted. It is better for normal relationships to be retained.
This will increase the likelihood of preservingthe integrity of the family. In particular a
wife should remain a wife, mother and lover rather become a nurse and carer. The
National Spinal Injuries Centre in StokeMandeville holds regular teach-in days for
and their families attend and
families and carers. Chronic spinal cord injured patients
to the families of those who have recently
provide invaluable insights based on experience
been injured.
18. Home
cord injured persons have at the time of injury
The accommodation which most spinal
is seldom suitable for the life in a wheelchair. Early housing assessment is required.
Incomplete paraplegics who can ambulate and cope with stairs in their younger years
find that this becomes increasingly difficult as they growolder. Many eventually become
wheelchair dependent. Crutch and rollator walking takes up more space that normal
ambulation. Doorways and corridors need to be wider to take account of this.
TetraplegicS and complete paraplegics are safes in ground-floor wheelchair accessible
accommodation. This is seldom achieved in theUnited Kingdom first because most
cord injured persons like to remain in
houses are two storey and second most spinal
their won area. Accordingly, through-floor lifts and stair-lifts are usually provided instead.
cord injury depend on the person
The precise housing requirements following spinal
concerned and the pattern of disability. It is seldom possible in the United Kingdom
for all needs to be met by statutory authorities so some element of compromise is
almost always required.
Amongst the many housing aspectwhich must be considered are the following:
1. There should be a covered way for the car and from the car to the front door
together with adequate space for the spinal cord injured person to get in and out of
17. Family
The enormouS impact of paralysis on the family including parents, siblings, spouses and
children must be considered. Relationships can be destroyed. The old age of parents
cord injured
can be shattered by paralysis in their children. The ability of the spinal The adverse
person to be a true father, wife, husband or mother is severely impaired.
effects on the family rebound on the patientwho sometimes feels guilty for the suffering
cause. 35The view that family members should look after their spinal cord injured
for normal relationships to be retained.
relative is no longer widely accepted. It is better
This will increase the likelihood of preservingthe integrity of the family. In particular a
wife should remain a wife, mother and lover rather become a nurse and carer. The
National Spinal Injuries Centre in Stoke Mandevilleholds regular teach-in days for
families and carers. Chronic spinal cord injured patients and their families attend and
provide invaluable insights based on experienceto the families of those who have recently
been injured.
18. Home
The accommodation which most spinal cord injured persons have at the time of injury
is seldom suitable for the life in a wheelchair. Early housing assessment is required.
Incomplete paraplegics who can ambulate and cope with stairs in their younger years
find that this becomes increasingly difficult as they growolder. Many eventually become
wheelchair dependent. Crutch and rollator walking takes up more spacethat normal
ambulation. Doorways and corridors need to be wider to take account of this.
Tetraplegics and complete paraplegics are safes in ground-floor wheelchair accessible
accommodation. This is seldom achieved in the United Kingdomfirst because most
houses are two storey and second most spinal cord injured persons like to remain in
their won area. Accordingly, through-floor lifts and stair-lifts are usuallyprovided instead.
The precise housing requirements following spinal cord injury depend on the person
concerned and the pattern of disability. It is seldom possible in the United Kingdom
for all needs to be met by statutory authorities so some element of compromise is
almost always required.
Amongst the many housing aspect which mustbe considered are the following:
I. There should be a covered way for the car and from the car to the front door
together with adequate space for the spinal cord injured person to get in and out of
the vehicle undercover. This requirement is seldom met. Most have to accept that
to get to and from their car they will be exposed to the elements.
2. There must be appropriate, usually ramped, access to the house. This is usually
available, though initially only by way of temporary ramps.
3. Doorways and corridors should be of sufficient width to accommodate the
wheelchair base and turning circle. This requirement is seldom achieved.
Accordingly skirting boards and doorways are usually scuffed and damaged.
4. Adequate storage space should be available to avoid equipment cluttering up
corridors and living space. This is seldom available.
The main bedroom should be of sufficient size for easy wheelchair mobility and
with adequate storage space for catheters, urinary sheaths and other personal
6. There should be an en-suite toilet and bathroom to the main bedroom. This is
necessary because the spinal cord injured person needs to get to and from the
bathroom and toilet whilst seated in his wheelchair in a state of undress.
7. There must be appropriate hoists. These will be required occasionally when the
spinal cord injured person is young and regularly when he is older.
8. For tetraplegics, and paraplegics in the last years of their lives, carer accommodation
is required. To ensure regular recruitment of satisfactory carers their accommodation
must be comfortable and attractive.
9. Paraplegic and tetraplegic persons are less able to maintain their body temperature.
In the case of tetraplegics, temperature control is further compromised by altered
sympathetic nervous control. Central heating is advised in all cases. Because
tetraplegics can become overheated in hot weather it is desirable that at least one
room in the house has air conditioning.
19. Recreation
Recreations possible before injury are seldom practicable afterwards. A home computer
system is often helpful. High tetraplegics benefit from pager turners. Although some
paraplegics and tetraplegics enjoy wheelchair sports, the majority are no more sporting
that the rest of the population. Access to place of public enjoyment such as theatres
and cinemas is often difficult or impossible. 38Regular holidays help maintain morale and
family relationships. They ai usually more expensive as the cheaper hotels aie inaccessible
to wheelchairs. Extra help is required. A regular visit from and Occupational Therapist
is helpful in brining the persons up to date with modern developments in aids, equipment
and retractions. Disabled clubs and societies also provide information. Skiing, scuba
diving, piloting aeroplanes, abseiling and wheelchair rugby are afew examples of the
type of recreations that are possible.
20. Employment
Sir Ludwig Guttmann would tell his patients "you are not rehabilitated until I see your
first pay-slip". This most important rehabilitation goal is, regrettably, often not achieved.
The opportunities for employment following spinal cord injury are greatly reduced.
Retraining centres exist. The disablement resettlement officer can also adyise. Many
universities have facilities where spinal cord injured persons can study. Most succeed in
getting good degrees. However there is a great difference between obtaining a
qualification and achieving employment. In general, the wheelchair dependants are
overlooked when there is competition.39. Those who had physical outdoor manual
employment prior to injury and in particular those with poor academic backgrounds
are at a great disadvantage following spinal cord injury. They usually remain unemployed.
Academically capable patients and those who succeed in retraining clerically still face
many problems. It takes longer for them to get up and get going in the morning. At
work the care must be under cover and with access from it to the place of work. The
latter must be wheelchair accessible. Getting from on floor to another and from one
building to another is usually difficult and sometimes impossible. There must be facilities
at work to allow for episodes of incontinence. Employers have to accept that
complication such as red marks and urinary tract infections will result in time off work.
Drugs such as Baclofen interfere with concentration and mental agility. Although many
paraplegics and some tetraplegics achieve some form of employment, it is more likely
to be part than full time, intermittent than continuous and to involve early retirement.
21. Post first admission medical care
In the chronic stage following spinal cord injury, complications can arise, such as pressure
sores and urinary tract infections. Some can be successfully treated at home. When
hospitalisation is required this should be prompt and into a spinal unit. Annual
comprehensive review in a spinal cord injury unit is required. This should include upper
unitary tract assessment and a comprehensive clinical review.
22. Aging
Some of the effects of aging have been considered above. It is essential that these are
taken into account when planning and spinal cord injury service. There is no stereotypical
pattern for aging. Some people are intrinsically more able than others. Others have the
effects of aging brought forward by problems such as contractures.36
23. Care Attendant Needs
Low level paraplegics are usually independent when young apart from needing help
with domestic activities, shopping, certain obstacles out of doors, gardening, do-ityourself work and home maintenance. They usually stand by assistance when ambulating
in calipers or similar devices. Mid-level paraplegics may require assistance with getting
into and out of the standing frame out of the bath, in and out of the care and with lifting
the wheelchair in and out of the car. Spasticity, spasms, intrinsic ability, truncal balance
and age are important. Some low level tetraplegics are almost independent. The majority
require some assistance. For example, they can use a spoon for eating but not cut up
meat. They can drive a car but not transfer into it or lift their wheelchair in and out of it
independently. Because tetraplegics can get autonomic dysreflexia or choke on food
someone should be at hand to deal with an emergency should the need arise.
Notwithstanding this, many tetraplegics live on their own for substantial periods of time.
This is a reflection of the inadequacy of resources available in the community rather
than the particular needs of the tetraplegic person. As mentioned above, in general it is
not appropriate for family members to be involved in the physical and personal care of
their relations. Nevertheless, they frequently choose to do so and provide extremely
good care. The patter and type of domiciliary physiotherapy required depends on the
individual. In general, carers can carry out the straight forward physiotherapy activities
ofjoin range of motion and assisting patients into the standing frame. More specialised
physiotherapy tasks require a Chartered Physiotherapist.
The successful rehabilitation of a spinal cord injured persons is critically dependent on
a careful understanding of that particular individual including his past history, current
situation and further aspirations.
Treatment should be carried out in a Spinal Cord
the Clinical
Injury Centre.In the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Service Specification of a Modern Spinal Cord have been laid out. They incorporate
the following:
cord injured
i. Cooperation in the efficient retrieval and early admission of acute spinal Service and
patients for specialised care.
This requires liaison with the Ambulance
Acute/Orthopedic Units in the region. It
includes the provision of guideline for acute care and transportation.
with all Accident and Emergency and
Accident and
Emergency Unit and TraumaService to deal with the admission of patients
and for those who have been transferred. On
2. An admission system that has the support of a fully equipped
directly from the local accident scene
traumatised person is too ill to be transferred
those occasions when the spinal cord
provision must exist for the patient
immediately to the Spinal Cord Injury Centre,
to be visited at the referral hospital to ensure that optimum treatment is applied.
3. The accurate and rapid diagnosis of the spinal lesion using modern diagnostic
The service must have access to facilities for full diagnostic investigation including
with other
plain X-ray films, CT' scans and MRI scans on a twenty-four hour basis
modalities such as neuro-physiological assessment being available as appropriate.
4. Specialist management in the acute phase with the aim of optimising recovery and
minimising complications. The service must have available the support
Orthopaedic Surgery, Neurosurgery,
General Surgery and Anaesthesia. The hospital
must have the capability of managing multiple injuries and patients requiring
ventilatory support.
reach their full potential
5. Physical and psychological rehabilitation to enable patients to
for independent living. The service must have dedicated Physiotherapy and
Occupational Therapy staff with on demand services from Speech Therapy and
Dietetics. The team will include support from Clinical Psychology as routine.
Psychiatric Services will available on demand.
modified domestic or residential facilities.
6. Discharge of patients to appropriately
The service must have close links with the Social Services and other community
7. Participation in health related aspects of retraining to enable patients to pursue an
economic carer or to develop activities within a sheltered work setting. This is not
merely an extension of Occupational Therapy but also involves close links with
local Colleges/Universities etc.
8. Provision of after care which encompasses Hospital Outreach Services.After care
for spinal cord injured patients necessitates lifetime surveillance. The Unit must
provide community liaison services with open access for consultation by patients,
general practitioners and community nursing staff.
9. Provision of self-care teaching programmes for patients and carers and a
programme for relatives.
10. Provision of specialised teaching programmes concerning spinal cord injury for
health care professional trainees including prevention, diagnosis and management.
11. Provision of clinical audit of the process and outcome of care for acute spinal cord
injured patients.
12. Provision for the readmission of spinal cord injured patients first for the treatment
of life-threatening complications such as respiratory failure, intractable autonomic
dysreflexia, septicaemia and widespread tissue necrosis with toxaemia andsecond
for major surgery such as thoracotomy for phrenic nerve implant insertion, spinal
canal exploration for the treatment of syringomyelias and intraspinal somatic and
autonomic nerve implants. and laparotomies required for major reconstructions.
To ensure that no key areas are omitted, doctors are advised to apply a check sjmilar
to that shown in the table.
Table Rehabilitation of a Spinal Cord Injured Person.
Associated injuries
Peripheral nerves/brachial plexus
Neurology - level, completeness: syrinx
Spine - deformities, arthritis
Bladder - upper and lower urinary tract
Joints - heterotopic ossification
Cardiovascular - hypotension, autonomic dysreflexia
Skin - turns in bed, mattress, cushions, bed shower chair, bath
Sexual function - fertility, intercourse, sexuality
Mobility - wheelchair, car, orthoses, recreational mobility, ramps
Transfers - hoists
Activities of daily living - environmental control systems
Psychology - counselling
Recreation - holidays
Care Attendant Needs
Guttman L.Spinal cord injuries: Comprehensive management and research ( 2nd edition).
Blackwell Scientific Publishers London 1976.
Bedrook, Sir G (ed). The care and management of spinal cord injuries. Springer-Verlag
New York 1981.
Donovan WH, Carter RE, Bedbrook GM, Young JS. , Griffiths ER. Incidence of medical
complication in spinal cord injury: Patients in specialised, compared with non-specialised
centres. Paraplegia 1984; 22:282.
Carvell J. Grundy D Patients with spinal injuries. Early transfer to a specialist centre is
vital, BMJ 1989; 299: 1353.
Grundy D, Swain A(eds). ABC of spinal cord injury. British MedicalJournal 1993.
Stover S L, DeLisa JA, Whiteneck OG (eds). Spinal cord injury: clinical outcomesfrom
the model system. Aspen Maryland 1995.
Toscano . Prevention of neurological Deterioration before Admission to a Spinal Cord
Injury Unit. Paraplegia 1988; 26: 143.
Ravichandran G. and Silver JR. Missed Injuries of the spinal cord. Br Med J 1982; 284:
Illis LS (ed) Spinal cord dysfunction. Vol. 1: assessment. Oxford University Press. 1988.
Illis LS (ed). Spinal cord dysfunction. Vol. 2: Intervention and treatment. Oxford University
Press 1992.
Illis LS (ed) Spinal cord dysfunction. Vol. 3: Functional stimulation. Oxford University
Press. 1993.
Carter RE. Experience with ventilator dependent patients. Paraplegia 1993; 31: 150.
Baracken MB, Sherphar MJ, Holford TD eta!. Administration of Mehtylprednisolone for
24 or 48 hours or Tiri!azad Mesylate for 48 hours in the Treatment of Acute Spinal Cord
Injury. JAMA 1997; 277(20): 1597.
Moberg. E. The upper limb in tetraplegia: a new approach to surgical rehabilitation. George
Thieme 1978.
Wang D, Bodely R, Sett B, Gardner B P, Franek! H L.A clinical magnetic resonance imaging
study of the traumatised spinal cord more than 20 years following injury. Paraplegia 1996;
Squier M V and Lehr R P. Post-traumatic syringomyelia. J Neurol Neurosur Psychiatry
Richards JS. Chronic pain and spinal cord injury: review and comment. Clin J Pain 1992;
1994; 57(9): 1095.
8(2): 119.
Parsons KF, Fitzpatrick JM ( eds). Practical urology in spinal cord injury. Springer-Verlag
Brindely GS. The first 500 sacral anterior root stimulators: implant failures and their repair.
Paraplegia 1995; 33(l): 5.
Banwell JG, Creasey GH, Aggarwal AM, et al. . Management of the neurogenic bowel in
patients with spinal cord injury. Urol Clin North Am 1993; 20(3): 517.
Daud 0, Sett P. Burr RG, et a!. The relationship of heterotopic ossification to passive
movement in paraplegic patients. Disabil. Rehabil 1993; 15(3): 114.
Sindou M , Abbott R, Keravel Y. (eds). Neuro surgery for spasticity: a multidisciplinary
approach. Springer-Verlag 1991.
Gardner BP, Theocleous F, Watt JW. et al. . Ventilation or dignified death for patients with
high tetraplegia? Br Med J (Clin Res) 1985; 291 (6509): 1620.
Clough P, Lindenauer D. Hayes M. et al. Guidelines for routine respiratory care of
patients with spinal cord injury. A clinical report. Phys Ther. 1986; 66(9): 1395.
Groomes TE. . Huang CT. . Orthostatic hypotension after spinal cord injury, treatment with
tludrocortisone anderogtamine. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 1991: 72(1): 56.
Mathias CJ, et al. Clinical manifestations of malfunctioning sympathetic mechanisms in
tetraplegia. J Auton Nerv Syst 1983; 7(3-4): 303.
Green D, Hull RD, Mammen EF, et al. Deep vein thrombosis in spinal cord injury. Summary
and recommendation. Chest 1992; 102(6 Suppl.): 633S.
Rochon PA, Beaudet MP, McGlinchey-Berroth R, et a!. Risk assessment for pressure
ulcers: and adaptation of the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel risk factors to spinal
cord injured patients. JAm Paraplegia Soc 1993; 26(3): 169.
Alexander CJ. Psychological assessment and treatment of sexual dysfunctions following
spinal cord injury. JAm Paraplegia Soc. 1991; 14(3): 127.
Sipski M L.. The impact of spinal cord injury on female sexuality, menstruation and
pregnancy: a review of the literature. J Am Paraplegia Soc 1991; 14(3): 122.
Seager SW, Haistead LS. . Fertility options and success after spinal cord injury. Urol Clin
North Am. 1993; 20(3): 543.
Bromely I. Tetraplegia and paraplegia: a guide for Physiotherapist. 4th ed. Churchill
Livingstone 1991.
Sargant, C. and Braun, MA Occupational therapy management of the acute spinal cordinjured patient. Am J. OccupTher l986;40(5): 333.
Fullerton DT, Harvey RF, Klien MH, et al. . Psychiatric disorders in patients with spinal
cord injuries. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1981; 38(12): 1369.
McDonald DW. Boyle MA, Schumann TL. Environmental control unit utilization by
high-level spinal cord injured patients. Arch. Phys. Med. Rehabil., 1989; 70(8): 621.
Oliver M. et al. (eds) Personal and social implications of spinal cord injury: a retrospective
study. Thames Polytechnic
Whiteneck GG, Charlifue SW, Frankel HL, et al. Mortality, morbidity and psychological
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Demos 1988.
Rehabilitation of patients with neuromuscular disorders
Anisya Vasanth, M. Gourie-Devi
The rehabilitation of patients with progressive neuro-muscular disorders involves a multi-
disciplinary approach. The principles of rehabilitation in neuro-muscular disorders
affecting children include : fostering optimal physical, mental and emotional development;
maintaining or improving function whenever possible; and preventing secondary
complications such as contractures, skin break down and malalignment of the spine
The patient with neuro-muscular disease, must initially be evaluated by the neurologist,
with detailed history, particular emphasis being given to the age of onset of symptoms,
type of progression, (gradual, remitting -relapsing, rapid or static), and pedigree history.
Family history should include a detailed pedigree chart spanning three generations and
examination of family members (including those who are believed to be "unaffected").
This helps to determine the pattern of inheritance and is of utmost importance for
genetic counselling and molecular genetic studies. A meticulous clinical examination
reveals the pattern of muscle involvement, which is typical and characteristic of certain
diseases for eg. facial and shoulder girdle involvement in facio-scapulo humeral dystrophy,
calf muscle hypertrophy and proximal weakness initially of lower limbs in boys with
Duchenne and Becker dystrophies, frontal baldness, cataract, ptosis, facial weakness,
distal weakness and myotonia in myotonic dystrophy and fasciculations with wasting,
weakness and brisk reflexes in motor neuron disease. Detailed clinical evaluation provides
clinical differential diagnoses which are corroborated by laboratory investigations including
estimation of muscle enzymes, electroneuromyography and muscle biopsy. The final
diagnosis is established by correlating clinical, electrophysiological and histopathological
information 2 Accurate diagnosis is a pre-requisite for proper management. The clear
differentiation between polymyositis and dystrophy, congenital myopathy and myasthenia,
chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy and hereditary motor sensory
neuropathy has important therapeutic implications. The next step is one of imparting
this information to the patient.
Informing the patient about the diagnosis
This requires considerable time and communication skills. The patient approaches the
doctor in the hope of complete cure. When a progressive neuromuscular disease is
diagnosed which does not have a complete cure, the treating team is faced with the
responsibility of breaking this news in the best possible manner, so that it produëes least
emotional distress while simultaneously apprising the patient or familyof the true nature
of the disease so as to prevent medical shopping. Neuromuscular disorders like muscular
dystrophies, motor neuron disease, spinal muscular atrophyand congenital myopathies
are rare as compared to stroke. However, patients require life long care and with
advancing age, there are changing needs. PamelaShaw3 in her experience with patients
suffering from motor neuron disease recommends balancing information about the lack
of specific treatment and cure, with the inherent variability in the clinical course of the
disease and the palliative therapies aimed at alleviating distressing symptoms, which
can do much to improve the quality of life for the patient duringthe course of the
When once the patient and/or family are aware of the nature of the disease and its
implications, the process of rehabilitation can commence. At NIMHANS, for the past
seven years, a neuromuscular clinic is conducted once a month, where we attempt to
provide comprehensive care to patients through a multi disciplinary approach. The
team comprises of neurologists, social workers, orthopaedic surgeon, physiotherapists,
occupational therapists, clinical geneticist, yoga therapists and Ayurvedic physicians.
Aspects of rehabilitation pertaining to certain common disorders are outlined in this
Duchenne muscular dystrophy
This is the most common dystrophy we have encountered at the clinic. The absence of
specific treatment makes it all the more important to prevent its physical, emotional,
social and educational complications and to provide active support for the family
throughout the course of the disease4. The cliiiician's first responsibility is to provide
an unequivocal diagnosis and enough information and constructive suggestions to enable
the family to formulate practical plans for the future. These must be given in relaxed
sessions after the initial shock has passed . Melinda Firth interviewed 69 parents of
boys suffering from Duchenne dystrophy at home6. The interview explored the parents'
experiences at the time of their sons' diagnosis. Many parents had experienced distressing
delays (average 2.5 yrs) between the time they first became aware of the symptoms
and the time of the diagnosis. Only on 18 occasions were both parents informed othe
diagnosis together. One third of the parents were "not satisfied" with the way the
diagnosis had been communicated. Though there is clearly no single best way to tell the
parents of a child that he has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the suggestions of the
parents who have been through this experience aresummarized below:
(I) Most parents want to know if there is something wrong with their child as soon
as possible. Evidence from parents of handicapped children shows that most
have strong feelings that early telling is desirable.
(2) Most parents prefer to be told the diagnosis together
Parents should be given some privacy when told the diagnosis. They also require
some time to allow the release of emotions.
Full and balanced information should be given. Parents have different opinions
about how much of the prognosis should be explained in the initial session.
As many parents will be unable to take in much of what they are told at the first
notification of the diagnosis, a series of contacts should be planned.
Social workers and other professionals who have a clear understanding of the
disease and its implications could provide good follow up support to families
who have recently learnt the diagnosis.
Parents must be encouraged to ask questions and voice their worries and
(8) The offer of contact with another parent of a child with Duchenne dystrophy may
help. The parents had strong feeling both for and against this form of support.
Firth, Gardner - Medwin and co-workers6 conducted interviews of parents to determine
problems faced by parents of boys with Duchenne dystrophy. 62% of the problems
were "practical" related to lifting, bathing, toileting, dressing, feeding and finding suitable
accommodation; 23% were "service" problems relating to difficulties in obtaining services
aids and allowances or dissatisfaction with them, 15% were emotional problems such
as the affected boy's depression, the parents' emotional problems in watching their son
deteriorate, parental isolation and awareness of society's attitude to handicapped people.
Once patients have been apprised of the diagnosis, they may be introduced to passive
Passive Stretching Exercises
Studies on the natural history of Duchenne dystrophy7 indicate that boys begin to fall
quite frequently and have increasing difficulty in climbing stairs between six to eight
years of age. From 9 to 11 years of age, they cease climbing stairs completelyand are
no longer able to stand up from the floor. Part of this difficulty is caused by the muscular
weakness and part of it by contractures which develop in the hips, knees and ankles
and make it impossible for the child to stand with the degree of hyper-extension necessary
to maintain balance8. Contractures of the iliotibial bands and hip flexors are noted by
four to five years of age and heel cord tightness follows shortly. Early therapy is therefore
aimed at preventing them. Passive stretching of the hip flexors and iliotibial bands is an
important part of management4. Prone lying is useful to prevent hip flexion contracture.
Vignos et a! recommended passive stretching for at least 5seconds, repeated 10 times,
twice a day9. Passive stretching exercises should be performed daily by the family8.
Stretching exercises done on a weekly basis are completely ineffective. In a study of
therapy and management of contractures, the most effective treatment in the prevention
of contractures was splinting. There was a high correlation between the use of night
splints (plastic ankle foot orthoses) which maintain the foot in dorsiflexion during the
night and preservation of movement at the ankle .
Active Exercises
Vignos and Watkins studied 211 patients with muscular dystrophy Maximum
resistance exercise programme was instituted for one year. Improvement in muscle
strength occurred in all patients throughout the first four months of exercise regardless
of the type of dystrophy. Subsequently, a plateau occurred and was maintained
throughout the period of observation. Improvement in functional abilities was less than
the increase in muscle strength. Patients with adult onset dystrophies (limb girdle and
facio scapulo humeral) derived the maximum benefit. de Lateur and Gianconi studied
four children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy in whom they submaximally exercised
one quadriceps using a Cybex isokinetic exerciser and recorder, with the contralateral
quadriceps as control". This was performed four or five days per week for six months.
There was no statistically significant increase in strength during the exercise period.
There was no evidence of over work weakness. Scott et al published a six month
study comparing a group of boys with Duchenne dystrophy who performed manually
resisted exercise with another group who performed exercises in response to oral
commands for 15 minutes per day 12 No statistical difference was found between the
two regimens. Fowler and Taylor suggested that exereise training programmes in patients
with neuromuscular disease should be started early in the course of the illness when
muscle fibre degeneration and regeneration are minimal '. They emphasized submaximal
exercise levels. There is still no satisfactory published trial of the effect of active exercise
in Duchenne dystrophy but it is common experience that Duchenne boys benefit from
exercise and conversely, that rest is detrimental14 Bed rest for minor illness or trauma
should be avoided whenever possible and regular walking, swimming and games, a
little more than the boy really wants to do, should be encouraged. Older boys can do
more formal and deliberate exercises, and in the late stages, these should be continued
with emphasis on the upper limb and breathing exercises. At NIMHANS, we have
encountered over 100 boys with Duchenne dystrophy at the neuro muscular clinic.
They are taught active exercises and encouraged to practice them daily. Swimming is
also advocated. They are also referred to experts in Naturopathy and yoga for training.
Some of the families opt to spend a fortnight at a residential facility where they undergo
intensive training in yoga. The mother is also taught yoga exercises, so as to enable her
to supervise the child.
Respiratory Muscle Training Exercises
Since respiratory failure accounts for death in over 75% of Duchenne muscular dystrophy
cases , specific respiratory muscle training exercises are often used to improve
ventilatory endurance. Uncontrolled studies showed improvement in vital capacity after
Di Marco et al evaluated the effects of inspiratory
a breathing exercise programme
resistive training on respiratory muscle function in patients with Duchenne (n=5), limb
girdle (n=5) and facio scapulo - humeral (n 1) muscular dystrophies' . Following six
weeks of training, there was remarkable improvement in ventilatory endurance. In six
patients, who trained for an additional six week period, respiratory muscle endurance
increased even further. The degree of improvement was positively correlated with
baseline vital capacity and maximal inspiratory pressure, suggesting that those individuals
with the largest mass of functional respiratory muscle and the largest proportion of
relatively normal respiratory muscle fibers achieved the greatest improvement in
endurance with training. They suggested that an exercise programme should be instituted
early in the course of the disease when there is maximum amount of functioning muscle.
Although there have been some suggestions that over activity may accelerate muscle
breakdown and result in a deterioration in muscle performance, in this study there was
no loss of respiratory muscle function in any of the patients. The authors had used a
simple inexpensive technique which could be carried out at home with minimum
supervision. They suggested that improvement in respiratory muscle endurance might
delay the occurrence of pulmonary complications and the onset of respiratory failure.
Martin noted improvement in endurance, but not in strength as a result of specific
respiratory muscle training They suggested that this was the result of training type I
fibers, preventing deterioration caused by disuse atrophy, the disease or both, Smith et
al reviewed the practical problems in the respiratory care of patientswith Duchenne
muscular dystrophy'9 The long standing respiratory muscle weakness in thisdisease
leads to serious secondary problems which include scoliosis, thoracic mechanical
abnormalities, widespread microatelectasis with reduced lung compliance, weak cough
with retained secretions and repeated infections, ventilation - perfusion imbalance and
recurrent sleep related hypoxemia. Maximum inspiratory pressureis reduced at all.
lung volumes in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This occurs early in the
clinical course of the disease and may antedate changes in vital capacity. Maximum
static expiratory pressures are lower than are maximum inspiratory pressures in patients
with Duchenne dystrophy. Maximum respiratory pressures give little information about
the reduction in lung and chest wall compliance through fibrosis and shortening of
dystrophic muscle. Normocapnic hypoxemia is common in patientswith Duchenne
dystrophy who have moderate or severe respiratory muscle weakness. In the absence
of infection, hypercapnia occurs only as a pre-terminal event. These boys are at risk of
clinically important sleep hypoxemia, severe cases may have REM related central sleep
apnoea which may account for the tendency of these patients to die at night. Smith et
al cautioned against the use of resistive training in advanced disease as the weak muscles
are working against the reduced compliance of the lungs and chestwall and may already
be close to their fatiguing threshold'9. They concluded that the role of training remains
controversial and more work is needed to clarify it.
Gardner-Medwin and Walton recommend regular breathing exercises and prevention
of scoliosis4. Postural drainage and appropriate antibiotic treatment is important during
respiratory infections.
Ventilatory Support
Chronic respiratory failure with nocturnal hypoxemia can produce anorexia, weight
loss, apathy, depression, late-night insomnia, restless fearful sleep, morning headache,
somnolence, inertia and sometimes morning cyanosis. Hypoxia can accelerate muscle
weakness. The use at home of nocturnal pOsitive-pressure ventilation, using a tightly
fitting mask will relieve many of these symptoms and may substantially improvethe
quality of lfe4. Miller et al studied decision making daily functioning and quality oflife
for patients with Duchenne dystrophy who were ventilator dependent 20• They
concluded that providing life extending technology to patients with progressive disease
is controversial and much debated among health care professionals. Accepting or
rejecting assisted ventilation is a deêision to be ma&by patients and families. Health
care providers must abandon the role of decision makers and become information
providers. Patients and their families must be given the necessary information andth
option whether or not to choose assisted ventilation well in advance, so sufficient time
is allowed for well thought out decisions. Some patients may refuse ventilation and
allow the disease to take its natural course. Respiratory insufficiency is an anticipated
event and should not be allowed to occur as an unexpected emergency.
Orthoses and Surgery
The time at which leg braces are used for ambulation and the type of brace used are
critical to the success of braced ambulation 8• The major functional weakness is that of
quadriceps. Early in the course of the disease, children fall because they are hurrying
and careless about their balance. Bracing at this stage will slow down the patient, who
will find it unacceptable. The child finds it easier to tolerate bracing when falls occur
during quiet standing or slow walking. Watt and Brooke use the following criteria for
bracing; the child has several falls per week, can no longer climb stairs or only with
difficulty, cannot rise from the floor and cannot extend the knee against gravity 8• The
long leg brace with knee support is most useful. The disadvantage of the plastic knee
ankle foot orthosis (KAFO) is the tendency of the patient to throw the foot into
equinovarus, resulting in calluses and abrasions on the outside of the foot. The metal
double upright attached to a surgical boot is cosmetically less appealing, but can be
more comfortable and holds the ankle in a more rigid position. If the limb is too contracted
to allow the use of the long leg brace, percutaneous tenotomy may be performed with
release of iliotibial bands, hip flexors, hamstrings and heel cords21. With the passage of
time, it has become evident that a good physiotherapy programme instituted early,
together with the use of ankle night splints, makes it possible to mobilize the boy in
callipers without surgery4. if tenotomies are to be performed, the dangers of anaesthesia
must be borne in mind and post-operative mobilization must be rapid. Prolongation of
walking and standing delays the onset of kyphoscoliosis. Ultimately, on account of
progressive weakness, the boy opts for a wheel chair which should initially be hand
propelled, but later may be electrically propelled.
Progressive scoliosis sets in soon after patients become unable to walk. This may go
on to cause severe thoracic distortion and respiratory impairment. Good posture in the
wheel chair can prevent scoliosis. The use of spinal braces and moulded wheel chair
inserts to prevent scoliosis is an area shrouded in controversy 9.22,23• Spinal fusion with
the insertion of a Harrington rod has been advocated as an alternative to bracing when
scoliosis is uncontrolled2425. Most cautious surgeons claim no benefit from the operation
in terms of life expectancy. Gardner - Medwin and Walton examine the spine every
three months among boys who have lost ambulation and offer spinal fusion if the curve
exceeds 20 degrees at a stage when the vital capacity is stillsufficient for safe anaesthesia.
There are other primary muscle disorders like congenital myopathies and chronic
polymyositis where weakness is predominantly proximal but severity and progression
are much less than in Duchenne dystrophy. The general principles outlined above hold
true for these disorders as well.
Motor neuron disease
In most instances, probably about 80% of cases, the diagnosisof motor neuron disease
(MND) is easy, especially for the experienced neurologist. However, distress may be
caused to the patient if there is no need for investigations and the diagnosis is given at
the first consultation. Most neurologists therefore avoid doing this and many would
admit the patient to hospital for investigation, even if this is not strictlyessential. The
early development of bulbar and pseudo-bulbar palsy is usually a sign of poor prognosis.
Other factors that influence the prognosis are the patients' age, othermedical diseases,
emotional backgrounds financial position, housing and partner's health. Focal forms of
motor neuron disease described in India, like monomelic amyotrophy26and wasted leg
syndrome27 have a very good prognosis. Juvenile motor neuron disease, described
from Madras, also has a good prognosis 28•
Telling the diagnosis
The patient and partner should be told the diagnosis once it is reasonably well established.
It is well known that patients take in very little information after they have beentold a
very serious diagnosis. For this reason, only asmall amount of information should be
given at the first interview. A second interview two weeks lateris usually desirable for
more information29
The patient experiences a stage of deterioration without major disability for 12-18
months. During this period, advice aboutjob and driving and information about research
in motor neuron disease are usually requested by the patient. Subsequently, bulbar
problems, speech difficulties and respiratory problems arise.
Salivary Drooling
The factors which contribute to salivary dribbling/drooling in motor neuron disease
include loss of the automatic swallow reflex, weakness of lip closure, weakness and
spasticity of the tongue, infection of the mouth especially oral thrush, and head position
i.e. the head falling forwards. Exercises to improve the awareness of lip closure and
strengthen lip seal may be of assistance. The patient may be encouraged to hold a
tongue depressor between the lips as he watches television. Lip exercises such as
closing the lips against resistance or producing bilabial sounds such as "p" or "b" may
be used30
Spasticity of the tongue can be reduced by sucking ice, by external application of ice to
the neck, or by theuse of anti-spasticity drugs such as baclofen. Candida infection of
the mouth should be treated with frequent mouth hygiene and antifungal medication.
The use of a proper chair and collar can avoid neck tilt. Some patients produce very
thick secretions. Anticholinergic drugs must be avoided in these patients.
The act of swallowing can be arbitrarily divided into five phases : pre-buccal, early and
late buccal, pharyngeal and esophageal, all of which may be affected in MND. A
careful history about possible dysphagia should be obtained. The patient should be
observed while drinking about 50 ml of water and eating a biscuit. Lip closure, tongue
strength, palatal movement, strength of the cough, presence or absence of drooling and
dysarthria need to be ascertained. Cine-videofluoroscopy is useful in some patients
when there is hold up at the level of the cricopharyngeal sphincter.
The patient should have his meals in a relaxed en'ironment. Head support may be
beneficial. The food should be firm and smooth but not solid or unyielding. The
consistency can be varied by the use of blenders/mixers. Most patients find that
semisolids are easier to manage than fluids. A few experienced clinicians have used
palatal splints to support a flaccid palate31.
Cricopharyngeal myotomy (CPM) has been practised for many years. Langton Hewer
and Enderby reviewed five published papers on this subject, which discussed the results
of CPM in 106 patients with motor neuron disease 32 The post operative mortality
varied between 6% and 30%, the average being 14%. Benefit reported ranged from
64% to 100%. However, there had not been an objective assessment of benefit. The
value of this operation is not definitely known and many experienced clinicians have
abandoned the procedure 29•
and the
Alternate forms of feeding should be considered when there is frequent choking
patient is dehydrated. The na.sogastric tube is cosmetically not veryappealing. However,
it does circumvent the problem of dysphagia. Narrow bore tubes areless obtrusive
than wide bore ones. The tube does cause mucosal irritation with an increase in
secretions. Percutaneous, endoscopic gastrostomy, using a small bore catheter inserted
under local anaesthesia is a simple, safe and effective procedure for malnourished,
Dysarthria and communication problems
A combination of weakness, spasticity and in-coordination of movementsresult in
dysarthria in 75% of patients with MND. Decreasing the speed of speech and using
short phrases may improve intelligibility. Loose dentures may play a role in dysarthria
and must be dealt with. Reduction of spasticity by using local ice or baclofen also
helps. The patient can point to the first letter of each word on a letter board as he
speaks thus providing visual clues. Communication aids like the Canoncommunicator
andscanning aids like the Possum communicator are available in the !Jnited Kingdom.
Speech syntheses are also available on a soft ware package that can run on amodern
portable computer at moderate cost. Speech therapists are mainly involvedin the
managemtht of dysarthria.
This can be a major problem in motor neuron disease36. There are many precipitating
factors including weakness of the abdominal muscles, spasticity of the pelvic floor
muscles, immobility, lack of fibre in the diet, dehydration, and the use of anticholinergics
and opiates. Constipation can be very distressing to the patient. Management comprises
of increasing the dietary fibre, maintaining adequate fluid intake and avoiding anticholinergic drugs if possible. Patients are sometimes able to have a bowel action after
relaxing in a warm bath. Bulk laxatives like ispaghula can be used, as also suppositories
and enemas. If faecal impaction occurs, manual evacuation should be undertaken by a
professional helper.
Pain is common in motor neuron disease 36,37• Saunders and colleagues studying 100
cases seen in a hospice found that 45% complained of pain, and this arose from stiff
joints, muscle cramp and skin pressure 38• Comfortable positioning, regular physiotherapy
and treatment of spasticity can help in pain relief. Emotional lability sometimes occurs
with inappropriate laughter and crying. This frequently responds to imipramine in the
dose of 25 mg two or three times per day.
Wheel chairs
The choice of wheel chair depends upon an accurate assessment of patients' impairment,
the circumstances of its use and the length of time spent in the chair. patients with neck
weakness would benefit from a chair with reclining back and collar., side supports help
truncal instability, leg elevators reduce leg swelling, special seating minimizes the risk of
pressure sores and ball bearing arm supports are needed when there is arm weakness.
These measures serve to alleviate suffering in patients with motor neuron disease.
Respiratory failure
The majority of deaths from MND are probably due to respiratory failure and/or bulbar
Thegeneral management of respiratory insufficiency includes the detection
and prevention of aspiration pneumonia, proper positioning and chest physiotherapy
and the judicious use of antibiotics. Patients should avoid contact with people who
have significant upper respiratory tract infection.
Assisted ventilation
Assisted ventilation is not a reasonable option for the majority of patients 29• It is to be
considered only after full discussion of the implications with the family, neurologist and
pulmonary physiology team. Non invasive negative pressure assisted ventilation may
be acceptable when respiratory insufficiency limits patients' activities. Nine patients
who used a cuirass ventilator during sleep derived considerable subjective improvement
in sleep, mobility, exercise tolerance, morning headache and day time fatigue40.
Spinal Muscular Atrophy
In acute infantile spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) nutritional and respiratory concerns
are of primary importance in the first year. The use of nasogastric feeding may be
necessary. Chronic assisted ventilation is probably not warranted because of the poor
prognosis. In the less severe forms of SMA,attention should be directed towards
prevention of complications and improvement of function.
Watt and Greenhill recommend a custom seating device at 6-8 months of age in order
to mimic normal motor development. A specialheadrest can be used to support the
neck41. At one year of age, a standing frame or A-frame is provided to promoteaxial.
loading and to stretch out contractures. Night splints for the feet are routinely used.
Most of the children are unable to propel the standing frame, and a miniature wheel
chair is provided. A spinal orthosis is used to correct earlyscoliosis. These children
are usually very bright and hence, powered mobility can be provided very early.
Granata et al provided orthoses to seven children with the intermediate form of SMA42.
They ranged in age between 1 year 8 months and4 years, 4 months (average age 2
years, 8 months). All of them couldsit unsupported but none of them had ever stood or
walked before fitting the orthoses. The orthosis was constructed on a plaster cast using
polyethylene and light weight metal bars with ischial support and releasing knee joint.
Six of the seven children were able to stand with the orthosis and assisted ambulation
was subsequently achieved in four. The children toleratedthe orthoses fairly well. The
authors suggest that it would be ideal to provide orthoses before the ageof two years.
Besides, soft tissue releases to allow brace wearing, Watt and Brooke are not aggressive
in the treatment ofjoint contractures. Most of the older non-ambulatory children,
develop hip dislocation, which is usually painless 8•
Scoliosis of the collapsing paralytic type is a problem which is difficult to treat in SMA43.
Patients usually wear spinal orthoses until the scoliosis progresses beyond 400. Elective
surgery with pre-operative pulmonary assessment and post operative. endotracheal
ventilation is usually successful. Luque and Moseley spinal fusion has revolutionized
the treatment of paralytic scoliosis
Patients of SMA become wheel chair bound in their teens. Deep breathing exercises,
use of inspirometer, chest physiotherapy and postural drainage help to improve pulmonary
function. Chronic ventilation is a measure to be discussed seriously with care givers and
patients. Computers, adaptive equipment help to improve the quality of life of patients
and care givers.
Hereditary motor sensory neuropathies.
This group of heterogeneous disorders is characterized by symmetrical, slowly
progressive distal muscle weakness. Endurance training probably improves general
cardiovascular fitness and prevents disuse atrophy. The most common need for an
orthosis in the lower extremities is to compensate for paresis or paralysis of the dorsiflexor
of the feet. A light weight spring wire brace may suffice. This is however, not durable
enough for hard use and not recommended for children. If the foot tends to pronate or
supinate a double upright brace with or without a T strap can be considered45. Orthoses
for the lower extremity that fit inside shoes have also been described. When there is
anaesthesia of the foot, it is safer to have custom made orthosis. Functional
neuromuscular stimulation for ambulation does not apply in lower motor neuron lesions
because the muscle cannot be stimulated through innervating nerve.
Severe weakness of the quadriceps may make it necessary to brace the knee so as to
prevent buckling. The standard brace for stabilization of the knee is fastened to the
shoe, has a knee joint that can be unlocked when the patient wishes to sit down and
extends up the thigh posteriorly almost as high as the ischial tuberosity. If the brace is
too short, the patient may slump into it, promoting flexion contractures at the hip and
knee and increasing the pressure on the skin of the posterior thigh and in front of the
The surgical procedures which may be considered include osteotomy, fasciotomy, tendon
lengthening, arthrodesis and tendon transfer.
Participation in outside activities should be encouraged. Vocational guidance and
counselling help the patient find work that is suitable. Work in a sheltered workshop
may represent the ultimate goal or be an intermediate phase wherein vocational potential
can be developed.
Rehabilitation of patients with neuro-muscular disorders involves a multidisciplinary
approach. The overall aim is to improve the quality of life, limit impairment, minimize
disability and alleviate paiu and distress.
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Shaw PJ. The Management of Motor Neurone Disease. European Journal of Neurology
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suffering from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Dev Med Child Neurol 1983; 25:466.
Brooke MH, Fenichel GM, Griggs RC, Mendell JR, Moxby R, Florence J, eta!. Duchenne
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Scott OM, Hyde SA, Goddard C, Jones R, Dubowitz V. Effect of exercise in Duchenne
Muscular Dystrophy. Physiotherapy 1981; 67 (6): 174.
Fowler WM , Taylor M. Rehabilitation management of muscular dytrophy and related
disorders: I The role of exercise. Arch Phys Med Rehab 1982; 63 : 319.
Newsom-Davis J. The respiratory system in muscular dystrophy. Br Med Bull 1980; 36:
Adams MA , Chandler LS. Effects of physical therapy programme on vital capacity of
patients with muscular dystrophy. Phys Ther 1974; 54: 494.
Siegel TM. Pulmonary problems in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy : Diagnosis, prophylaxis
and Treatment. Phys. Ther 1975; 55: 160.
Di Marco AF, Kelling JS, Dimarco MS. Jacobs I, Shields R, ,Altose MD. The effects of
inspiratory resistive training on respiratory muscle function in patients with muscular
dystrophy. Muscle & Nerve 1985; 8 : 284.
Martin AJ, Sterin L, Yeates J, Lepp D, Little J. Respiratory muscle training in Duchenne
muscular dystrophy. Dev Med Child Neurol 1986; 28 : 314.
Smith PEM, Calnerley PMA, Edwards RHT, Evans GA ,Campbell EJM. Practical problems
in the respiratory care of patients with muscular dystrophy. N Eng J Med 1987; 316: 1197.
Miller JR, Colbert AP, Osberg JS. Ventilator Dependency : Decision making, daily functioning
and quality of life for patients with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Dev Med Child Neurol
1990; 32: 1078.
Siegel IM. Diagnosis, management and orthopaedic treatment of muscular dystrophy Am
Acad Orthopedic Surg 1981; 30 : 3.
Young A, Johnson D, O'Gorman E, McMillan T, Chase AP. A new spinal brace for use in
Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Dev Med Child Neurol 1984; 261 : 808.
Wilkins KE, Gibson DA. The patters of spinal deformity in Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
J Bone and Joint Surg 1976; 58A: 29.
Swank SM, Brown JC, Perry RE. Spinal fusion in Duchenne's muscular dystrophy. Spine
1982; 7:484.
Weimann RL, Gibson DA, Moseby CF, Jones DC. Surgical stabilization of the spine in
Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Spine 1983; 8 : 776.
Gourie-Devi M. Suresh TG, Shankar SK. Monomelic amyotrophy. Arch Neurol 1984; 41:
Chopra JS, Prabhakar S, Singh AP, Banerjee AK. Patterns of motor neurone disease in
North India and wasted leg syndrome. In : Gourie-Devi M (ed) Motor Neuron Disease.
Oxford and IBH New Delhi 1987: 148.
Meenakshi Sundaram E, Jagannathan K, Ramamurthi B. Clinical patterns of motor neuron
disease seen in younger age group in Madras. Neurology India 1970; 18: 109.
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I 64
Cognitive Rehabilitation
Shobini L. Rao
Brain injury often leads to residual deficits in the physical and psychological spheres.
The physical deficits and its resulting limitations are obvious. It is easy for the patient
and family members to accept that these are beyond the patient's control. Psychological
deficits are in the nature of cognitive and emotional problems. They affect the functioning
of the patient in the family, social and occupational spheres. However link between
cognitive deficits and psycho social outcome is not clear to the patients or their family
members. The patient may be held responsible for the problems he / she faces in the
family, occupation or society. This misattribution further complicates the already difficult
predicament of the patient. Neuropsychological rehabilitation is useful in improving
psychological functioning of the patient. The improvement in turn reduces the difficulties
faced by the patient in his everyday interactions in the family, occupation and society.
Neuropsychological rehabilitation helps to restore the patient to his/her premorbid level
of functioning.
Need for Cognitive Rehabilitation
Head Injury and Stroke are common causes of brain injury. The incidence of head
injury in US is 295 per 100,000 to 400 per 100,000'. In India head injuries affect
nearly 1,50,000 persons every year 2 Head injury is a major cause of lifetime disability
and impairment for young persons. Disability rates calculated on the basis of hospital
admissions, survival rates and variable disability proportions showed that 33/100,000
or 83,000 persons are disabled in the US alone in 19903 due to head injury. Even
among patients with mild head injury , 84% of patients had complaints at three months,
50% had poor memory and only 34% of the patients returned to work . In the
moderately injured group 96% had complaints and 90% had memory problems. Again
only 31% had returned to work after three months . The above studies indicate that
cognitive deficits are present even in mild to moderate head injury. Cognitive functions
have been recognised as an outcome measure of clinical improvement. The assessment
of attention, memory, language, mental processing, motor functions and behaviour is
advised in severe to moderate injury 6•
Stroke is another disorder wherein brain injury leads to cognitive deficits. Prevalence
of stroke is between 84 and 144 per 100,000 in different countries. Residual disability
is present in 30% to 50% of stroke victims and memory deficitsin 30% '. At one year
after stroke visuo - perceptual impairment including visual neglect was present in 31 41% and memory deficits in 30% of the stroke survivors 8 Specific neurological
deficits including organic cognitive deficits are important determinantsof functional
outcome after stroke. Psychosocial disability is more prevalentthan physical disability
in victims of stroke9. The nature of motor and perceptual functions predicted self-care
status at two weeks with 70% accuracyio The cognitive deficits have a twofold effect.
First, the deficit of new learning or memory can impairthe daily functioning of the
patient. Second, cognitive deficits can hinderthe patient from profiting through other
rehabilitation services. Cognitive deficits have a strong bearing on psychosocial outcome
such as efficiency in the vocation, interpersonal relationships, leisure time pursuits. Thus,
cognitive deficits by virtue of their link with psychosocial disability have an important
bearing on functional outcome of stroke.
The other common neurological disorder associated with cognitive deficitsis epilepsy
which affects 24 to 53 per 100,000 persons". Memory deficit is a common, complaint
in the epilepsy clinic. The etiology of cognitive deficits in epilepsy is multi factorial.
Disease related variables such as high seizure frequency, early age of onset, longer
duration, presence of BEG abnormalities and poly pharmacy are associated with cognitive
deficits. These factors being enmeshed with the illness, the epileptic patient is likely to
have cognitive impairment throughout the course of the illness. Even newly diagnosed
epileptic patients report cognitive impairment'2. Improvement of cognitive functioning
in these patients would improve their over all functioning. In fact the twin goalsof
treatment for epileptic patients has been reduction of seizures and improvement of
cognitive functioning'3. Other patient groups who require neuropsychological
rehabilitation are patients with brain damage due to infections of the brain, hypoxia, and
toxicity. The psychological effects of brain injury amply demonstrate theneed for
neuropsychological rehabilitation. Neuropsychological rehabilitation is an essential
component of neurological rehabilitation.
Nature of Cognitive Rehabilitation
Neuropsychological rehabilitation is the process through which cognitive functioning of
brain injured patients are imprpved. Natural or spontaneous recovery initiates the process
of restoration of function. The pace of natural recovery is fast up to three months and
gradually slows down, but usually lasts for a year. Neuropsychological rehabilitation
facilitates the recovery in the early stages and mediates recovery in the later and chronic
stages. The goal of neuropsychological rehabilitation is to restore the patient to the
pmmorbid level of functioning to the extent possible. The aim is to improve the patient's
cognitive functions in different areas. Improvement of cognitive functions is expected to
generalise to everyday functioning of the patient. If the primary goal of restoring the
patient to the fullest pre morbid level is not achieved, then secondary goals are set. This
secondary goal would be to improve cognitive functioning at least to the extent of the
patient becoming productive, and to be able to continue with family and social
responsibilities to the extent possible. In case even this is not possible, the goal of
neuropsychological rehabilitation is to provide cognitive orthosis or aids such as diaries
and boards which would support the patient's day to day functioning. The overall aim is
to help the patient to function optimally; to reduce the burden on the support system
such that less assistance is needed; to develop skills and use environmental resources
to overcome residual impairments ' In the past twenty years , cognitive rehabilitation
has been used to reduce deficits in the areas of attention, memory, information processing,
visuo spatial perception, visuo constructive abilities, planning and reasoning.
Neuropsychological rehabilitation techniques are based on the methods of restitution
or restoration, reorganisation and compensation of the lost function 15 The principle of
restoration recognises that retraining of the damaged function, by either training it in its
totality or training its component parts would improve the function. The principle of
reorganisation targets at improving the function through alternate procedures. An example
would be improving communication in aphasics by increasing the use of gestures.
Compensation refers to the use of cognitive orthosis such as diaries as memory aids.
Restoration of function should be tried as far as possible. Only when it is clear that
further restoration is not possible, should compensation be provided.
Method of restoration
The method of restoration is based on the following principles: 1) Brain plasticity as evidenced through neuronal plasticity and redundancy of functional
neural systems mediates the recovery process. Recent functional brain imaging techniques
on stroke patients have demonstrated alteration of functional representations mediating
in the recovery of motor functions I6 Collateral axonal sprouting, disinhibition of silent
synapses. denervation super sensitivity are some of the mechanisms for the recovery
2) A componential analysis is required tounderstand brain behaviour relationships.
The componential analysis implies that a complex psychological
function such as attention,
memory, language. visuo spatial perception can be broken into elementary processes
of the brain.
or components 18 These components are localised in different regions
Brain damage would impair some components. Consequently,the composite function
is disturbed. Restoration of the damaged component would restore the impaired function.
Hence a detailed neuropsychological assessment is required to arrive at a profile of
dysfunctional functions and their components.
3) Once the composite psychological function is improved, the improvement would
generalise across tasks to everyday behaviour. Hence improvement in real life is a
natural consequence of improvement in the laboratory or hospital setting.
The procedures employed for restoration of function depend on the function damaged.
The basic principle is to break down the composite dysfunctioninto as many components
as possible. This is usually done through atheoretical analysis. The next step is to
assess the components in order to find out which are the dysfunctional components.
This is followed by first improving the dysfunctional componentwith the most pervasive
An example would illustrate this
effect, followed by improving other components.
principle. A patient with head injury may present with the complaint of difficulty in
concentration. Neuropsychological assessment would revealattention deficits. Clinical
analysis of the deficit and a theoretical analysiswould reveal the attention components
of alertness and focusing to be impaired. Alertness being a more pervasive function
compared with focusing, alertness should be improved first. Focusing should be targeted
after alertness has improved. Thus, sequencing is essential in neuropsychological
rehabilitation. Sequencing implies that a lower level function is improved first. After the
rate of improvement has reached a plateau a higher level function is targeted for
improvement. Therefore, the therapist waits for maximum improvement of the lower
level function before attempting to improve a higher levelfunction. The sequencing of
levels holds good within a function and across functions. If attention, memory and
planning are impaired in a patient, attention would be targeted first followed by memory
and then planning. Within the domain of attention, alertnesswould be targeted first
followed by tasks to improve focused, sustained and dividedattention in that order.
The method of saturation cuing is followed within each level of function. Difficultyof
the task is matched to the patient's capacity. Task difficulty is progressively increased
in step with the patient's improvement. In the initial levels cues are provided if necessary,
which are gradually faded out19
Method of restoration of functional skills
Restoration of functional skills refers to restoration of the skills required in every day
life. The traditional method has given retraining tasks in the laboratory with the expectation
that the benefits of retraining would generalise to everyday life. Research has found
that this generalisation of improvement does not always occur. Often restoration of
function is specific to the laboratory setting. Therefore its clinical utility becomes
questionable 20• The functional approach to restoration uses the setting and tasks of the
patient's life to restore function. The composite function that the patient has to perform
is broken down into functional bits. Each part of the total skill is taught to the patient.
An association between the practical loss and the theoretical brain function is not made.
Hence a here and now approach is adapted. The patient's disability is corrected,
rather than attempting to correct an impaired function. An example would be that if a
student finds it difficult to concentrate on studies following brain damage, functional
restoration would teach study skills; teach the patient to organise his / her day; encourage
the patient to take frequent breaks, rehearse the material and to take notes. In the
traditional computer based approach attentional training would be given with the hope
that the improvement would generalise to the school situation. Restoration of functional
skills has gained wide acceptance as a cost effective, practical and useful approach to
neuropsychological rehabilitation'4'21.
Method of compensation
Compensation techniques are adapted when restoration of function is not possible.
Compensation refers to those strategies which are external to the patient but help the
patient in discharging the disabled function. The patient with memory deficits might
keep notes of a meeting or note appointments in a diary. A patient with planning
impairment could be taught to organise his / her day with the help of a relative, note it
down in a diary and follow it. Patients with visuo spatial deficits can be taught to look
for landmarks. Verbal labelling of the parts of a drawing is a good strategy to overcome
visual memory impairment. Compensatory strategies have been used in the treatment
of aphasia. One of these is the Intelligent Word Finder which is an expert system run on
a computer. It helped to find words on the basis of incomplete information using inference
rules. If the anomic patient gave the first letter of the forgotten name and another word
with which itis highly associated, it would output the likely names22. Bliss symbols are
flash cards which contain symbols instead of words as the means of communication.
Grammar and function words are also explained through symbols. Bliss symbols have
been successful in the treatment of aphasics 23• The bliss symbols were adapted to the
microcomputer. The language known as VIC flashed symbols on the computer screen.
The patient interacted with others using these symbols. It has been successfully used in
communicating with patients who had severe global aphasia24. Communication through
VIC on a computer was successful enough to help a patient exchange jokes with the
therapist. C000RTH are computer program which help in the planning and execution
of daily activities. There are instructional modules which assist the patient through step
by step instruction and guidance. The daily activity is first analysed and broken down
into small stages or steps. The program then builds an instructional module for each of
the stages, which are strung together to execute the total task. This program was
successful in helping a severely amnesic patient to cook 24•
Behavioural management principles of differential reinforcement is a compensatory
mechanism for behaviour problems such as aggression or amotivation following brain
damage. The method of compensation has a limited effect on the patient's recovery.
Compensation does not improve the function but is a practical way of helping the patient
to live with a residual deficit.
Indian Experience
Cognitive rehabilitation is implemented as a treatment program for patients with head
injury since the past 14 years at NIMHANS. We started the program by attempting
restoration of function. Information processing deficits in patients with head injury
were helped by improving visual information processing 26 Serial and parallel
information processing and focused attention were improved. The program was
computer based. Daily one hour sessions were required for a duration of 4-6 weeks.
Our experience with over 200 patients has found this to be an effective program for
improving post concussion syndrome, memory deficits, and even frontal lobe deficits
following head injury 27,28 Subsequently we tried a program requiring very little
instrumentation to treat attention deficits following head injury. Focused, sustained and
divided attention were successfully improved through paper and pencil tasks 29
Subsequently the areas of contextual encoding in memory benefitted by improving
automatic encoding of spatial, temporal and frequency information in patients with head
injury Incorporating the functions of attention and memory we developed a home
based cognitive remediation program . The therapist would teach a task to a care
giver on a weekly basis. The patient's relative or friend would administer these tasks
to the patient at home. We have tried the method of restoration on detoxified alcoholics
with residual memory deficits 32• The patients showed improvement in their planning
ability and in their memory. However the cognitive rehabilitation did not prevent a
relapse. In children with attention deficit hyperactive disorder we have used cognitive
rehabilitation to improve their functioning. The children's attention span increased,
impulsivity reduced and their school performance also improved33. Currently studies
are underway to test the efficacy of cognitive rehabilitation in the treatment of cognitive
deficits in epilepsy. A controlled study is ongoing to test the efficacy of a program to
improve cognitive deficits in the areas of attention, memory, information processing and
regulation in patients with head injury. Our experience over the past 14 years has
established cognitive rehabilitation as a routine treatment for clients with brain damage
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Aphasia Rehabilitation
N. Shivshankar
Aphasia is an acquired language disorder caused by damage to language processing
areas in cortical and subcortical structures. The etiology maybe vascular, neoplastic,.
traumatic, post-surgical or infective in nature. The language deficits depend uponthe
site, type and extent of lesion in the areas of the brain responsible for language processing.
The language processing includes both input (receptive) and output (expressive)
modalities. The receptive modality includes predominantly auditory-verbal (auditory)
and reading (visual) whereas, the expressive modality comprises predominantly of verbal
and written mode. Thus, aphasia is an impairment involving individual's linguistic,
communicative and language related cognitive systems irrespective of input or output
modalities. Variety of speech and language dysfunctions can be seen involving these
modalities either in unison or in combination.
Classification of aphasia is important for localizing the site of lesion as well as predicting
the outcome and for planning the rehabilitation strategies. For a speech and language
specialist the classification yielding information on localization and the nature of linguistic
deficits become important to formulate aphasia rehabilitation and ofcourse, to predict
the outcome of recovery. The Boston classificatory system based on the speech and
language characteristic is being widely used (Table 1).
Aphasia rehabilitation is a team ipproach and the role of speech and language pathologist
is of paramount importance. The nature of linguistic deficits seen in aphasics vary from
mild deficits such as simple word finding difficulty to a very profound deficit in language
processing. The type of liguistic deficits need to be assessed through formal language
tests and informal observation of the language behavior. In the Indian context, generally
used aphasia tests have been, Indian versions of Western Aphasia Battery (WAB) and
the Linguistic profile test (LPT). The other tests of Indian versions such as Porch Index
of Communication Abilities (PICA), Boston Diagnostic Aphasia Examination (BDAE)
and Functional Communication Profile (FCP) are also being used though not widely.
Table - I: Speech-Language Characteristics of Aphasia Syndromes from the Boston
Classification System
Comp*nsion Sech
Goodtomild (lxxi
Good or
Fluent, para-
Usually good
oiy c
Tanscoitical Fluent,
After Aphasia, Alexia, and Agraphia by Benson, D.F, 1979, New York: Churchill
Livingstone, From "The Nature of Aphasia in Adults" by M.R. McNeil, in Speech,
Language and Hearing: Vol.11. Pathologies of Speech and Language by N.J. Lass,
L.V. McReynolds, J.L. Northern, and D.E. Yoder (Eds.), 1988, Philadelphia: W.B.
Saunders, Reprinted with permission.
When to start therapy
Generally, the language evaluation and therapy should be initiated when once the medical
status of the individual is stabilized. Till such time a bed side aphasiascreening may be
done to know the evolution of the aphasic syndrome. Thereafter, a complete assessment
involving linguistic functions should be administered toknow the type and nature of
linguistic deficit which would guide the clinician for planningthe rehabilitation program.
In the initial stages, as a part of the aphasia syndrome several catastrophic reactions are
frequently expressed by the patients. These reactions are shockingfor the family as
well. Understanding of the patient's premorbid personality helps in counselingthe patient
and family members. Patient's psychological readiness is a crucial pointfor initiating the
therapy program.
Variables contributing to the recovery
a) Spontaneous recovery
Neurolinguistic recovery occurring spontaneously following braininsult is attributed to
regaining of functions by the structurally undamaged areas in the brain. Several studies
indicate that this period ranges from two to six months. Despite the disagreement regarding
the length of the period of spontaneous recovery, this phenomenon mustbe appreciated
and should be accounted for in any aphasia treatment study. Controversiesexist whether
therapy during spontaneous recovery will enhance the recovery process. Number of
research reports support the hypothesis that aphasia therapy definitely benefitsindividual
if directed properly. Thus, therapy during this spontaneous recovery period mayenhance
the process of recovery. There is no doubt that substantial improve-ment may result
from language therapy even though a ceiling is frequently reached and recoveryremains
b) Etiological factors and aphasia syndrome
It has been documented that aphasia caused by trauma resolves better thanthat caused
by strokes. Within the stroke group aphasias caused by hemorrhages resolve better
than those caused by thromboembolic disease. It has been found that different aphasia
syndrome has differential recovery pattern. Anomic patients show best recovery. Patients
with Wernicke's aphasia withoutj argon show better prognosis than those who present.
Similarly, anarthria may be an hindering factor in the recovery processof expressive
c) Other factors
Equivocal findings have been reported with regard to contrbutory effects of age of
onset and educational level on aphasia recovery. It has been recognizedthat pre-morbid
behavior is an important factor in aphasia management. In a recent study it has been
reported that increasing age, stroke severity and neuropsychological deficits significantly
contribute to the recovery process . It has been recognised that there is a need for
studying the contributory effects of literacy, language and scripts structures, and other
sociocultural factors, on brain-language relationship 2•
Medical management of aphasia
The medical management in aphasia has been met with limited success. Several
neurobehavioral phenomena that may accompany aphasic syndrome such as, frontal
lobe depression syndrome, catastrophic reactions or extreme anxiety or agitation are
amenable to pharmacotherapy facilitating language therapy. These treatment should
only be considered as a last resort when all other supportive and counseling services
fail. With specific speech and language disorders associated with aphasia syndrome, no
drug has been found to change the speech and language behavior significantly. Findings
on bromocriptine therapy have been equivocal "'i. Despite the inconsistency reported
in pharmacotherapy studies in aphasia, medical line of management of aphasia syndrome
should be pursued. While drug therapy may not revolutionise the aphasia treatment, it
may still be used as an adjunct to behavioral rehabilitation.
Role of speech and language pathologist
Since, the language is a learnt behavior and the brain areas have the innate ability to
store this behavior, language remedial procedures in aphasics aid in either relearning or
reorganizing the language behavior. Speech-language pathologists constitute an important
member of the aphasia rehabilitation team, whose responsibility is to help aphasics to
regain the language skills to the extent possiblc and to help the individuals develop
strategies to compensate for deficient language skills. These are accomplished through
individualized or group therapy programs either by adopting best suited language
techniques or developing alternative mode of communication where verbal skills fail to
reappear. Their treatment also focuses on helping families and other caregivers who are
the key persons in any aphasia rehabilitation program, to make them communicate
effectively with the patient.
Role of the community
The community has a major share in the management of aphasics like in any other areas
of disability. The community should treat them with respect. Interaction with aphasics
may require the use of alternate modes of communication (gestural, writing). Certain
modifications may become necessary for aphasics to perform their activities. They may
require an alternate job placement according to the type of disability or barrier free
environment for them to move freely. A humanistic approach is what is important for
their rehabilitation. Both family and the patient require psychological and moral support
from the community.
Efficacy of aphasia therapy
Whether aphasia therapy is efficacious or not is still the topic of debate in aphasia
research. In a recent study the efficacy of aphasia therapy was evaluated as per the
specifications laid down by the American Association of Neurology (AAN) 6.The
study implied that language therapy does give substantial benefit to patients.
Aphasia treatment approaches
Two schools of thought exist with regard to aphasia rehabilitation. The school which
believes in the hypothesis of "loss of language" incorporates re-education program in
aphasia rehabilitation while the other believing in the hypothesis of "impaired access to
linguistic function" incorporates stimulation techniques to reorganize the neural access
to stored linguistic information. Generally, an eclectic approach would be ideal to reap
the maximum benefits of rehabilitation.
General Approach
Schuell 's stimulation approach The premise for the development of this approach is
in the belief that the language is neither lost nor destroyedin aphasia and thus do not
believe in teaching or reteaching approaches. The approach lays a strong emphasis on
auditory process as this is the process which is involved in the acquisition, processing
and control of language . Thus, the approach stresses on the maximum utilization of
auditory mode. It employs strong, controlled and intensive auditory stimulation as the
primary tool to facilitate and maximize the patient's reorganization and recovery of
language. However strong the argument may be in stressing the importance of auditory
modality in the therapy approach, a caution must be exercised for its judicial application.
There are patients who demonstrate dispropor-tionately severe impairment of the
auditory process (Wemicke's aphasia) who may not be a right candidate for this approach
and may benefit when both auditory and visual modalities (gestural or written input) are
used in conjunction. Thus, auditory modality need not be used exclusively. One modality
may be used to reinforce the other and combined auditory and visual modality may be
especially appropriate. The auditory input may be optimized by speaking slowly, pausing
at appropriate intervals, reducing the rate of phoneme production by prolonging the
words and stressing on the key word.
General frame work of the tasks emphasizing auditory abilities include, pointing tasks,
following directions, yes-no questions and sentence verification, response switching,
repetition tasks, sentence and phrase completion, verbal association, answering whquestions, connected utterances in response to simple words, retelling and conversational
verbal tasks. The reading tasks include all that mentioned earlier in the written modality
along with other tasks such as, matching of pictures to written words/phrases/sentences,
reading in unison with the clinician, reading paragraphs silently followed by questions
about the content, reading aloud and then retelling. Techniques for Writing deficits, can
also incorporate many of the above mentioned strategies along with copying and dictation.
The materials used with these techniques have to be graded in the order of difficulty
and should be presented to the patient in that order. Hierarchical therapy plan should
be developed for each patient depending on the level of their language function.
Cognitive domain model of treatment
It focuses on the utilization of strategies for divergent, convergent and evaluative thinking.
Hierarchical presentation of the stimuli for eliciting the desired response have been
stressed in this model. Methods such as specific cuing techniques, clustering, increased
contact time with stimuli and organizational strategies have been suggested by various
authors 8 These procedures enhance the memory functions as well.
Language Oriented Treatment (LOT): The program is based on operant paradigm
and the objective is to improve the language processingefficiency in both input and out
put modalities . The traetment plan focusses upon auditory and visual processing, oral
and graphic expression, and gestural communication. The responses obtained from the
patient for the stimulus provided by the clinician using any of the modalities mentioned,
are monitored by the clinician to provide feed back. Learning of specific stimulusresponse bonds is not the objective of LOT.
Functional approach
Functional communication treatment: This technique is considered as a supplement
is to restore and
or adjunct to traditional form of language treatment. The emphasis
communicative skills. It aims to improve the patient's reception,
recover important daily
processing and use of information that are important for conducting daily
The major principle
social interactions andexpressing psychological and physical needs.
communication thus, underscores the importanceof
of this technique is to establish
linguistic accuracy. It focuses upon the use of natural environment to channel
utilization of patient's effective and efficient
communication and emphasizes on the
for building communication 10
that global aphasics do retain a
VisualActiofl Therapy (VAT) Based on the findings
operations necessary for natural language
rich conceptual system and some cognitive
lead to the development of VAT' l.t2 The VAT incorporates nvocalvisual/gestUral
communication. The final version of VAT comprisesof
approach for re-establishing
limb VAT, distal limb VAT and bucco/facialVAT.
three sub-components viz., proximal
developed based on the observation
The proximal and distal VAT procedures were
easier to train than distal gestures'3 The VAT
that proximal gestures are significantly
procedures use real objects, line drawing of the real objects and pictures of the real
objects for training, The training steps are hierarchically arranged from basic pictureVAT
object matching to the communicative tasks using self initiated gestures. The limb
is found to be effective in patients with severe degreeof global aphasia associated with
moderate to severe degree of intransitive and transitive limb apraxia. Similarly, bucco/
limited verbal output while their auditoiy
facial VAT is effective in patients with severely
skills and limb praxis are moderately preserved orrecovered.
Back to the drawing bQàrd program (BDB) This program can be applied in patients
whose verbal communication is severely impaired. The technique aims at improving
aphasic communication through simpleline drawing to express their feelings, needs
events. The patients are first trained to drawthe line drawing of selected figures, actions
and sequence of actions which are hierarchically introduced. Finally, the patients are
encouraged to use this technique for everyday communications 14•
Pro,noting Aphasics Communicative Effectiveness
pragmatically based therapy technique to promotecommunication through appropriate
stimulation using both verbal and non-verbal strategies within the pragmatic context.
The clinical observation supported by experimental evidence that aphasic individuals
communication abilities than what could be predictedfrom their
possess far greater
performance on formal tests. They demonstrate adequate abilities to use contextual
(linguistic and non-linguistic) information, processingof non-verbal communicative acts,
cuing by prosodic information, comprehension and production, and making inferences
from the situational context16
The technique comprises of stimulus cards containing the drawing of eveiyday objects
or action or words. In this technique both patient and the clinician are equal partners in
the communication event. Each of them is expected to send messages across as they
pick-up the stimulus card on turn basis. The stimuli is selected based on the functional
level of the patient and the communication is reinforced. Linguistic accuracy is given
Specific Approach
Voluntary control of involuntary utterances (VcIU): The VCIU technique is
useful with severely nonfluent aphasics whose speech is limited to few stereotypic
meaningful utterances. The technique takes the patient from automatic utterances level
to a level where the patient could voluntary produce words. The technique incorporates
all the words that patients produce them involuntarily and were shown again in the
written format to be read by them. Those words which are not read properly are
removed from the list and new words with some emotional loading are added to the list
for the patients to read. During the sessions if patients produce any other involuntary
meaningful utterances, they also should be incorporated into the reading list. Once the
patients are able to read the words, they are shown the line drawings of pictures
representing the words. The patients are encouraged to identify the drawings and if
they failed, the words representing the pictures are repeated till they gain control over
the voluntary production of words. Gradually, confrontation naming of pictures are
introduced for voluntary verbal productions.
Melodic Intonation Therapy (MIT) The research evidence of right hemispheric
participation in music/melody processing lead to the development of MIT with the
objective of enhancing the verbal reproduction in nonfluent aphasics whose speech is
characterized by non-meaningful verbal stereotypes 18• The MIT has been found to be
an effective therapy tool with severe Broca's aphasia. The therapy requires preselected
stimulus items with corresponding pictures. The stimuli should consists of high probability
words with hierarchical control over the word selection with regard to phonological
difficulty and the syllable length. The selection of phrases and sentences as stimuli should
take language structure into account and be ananged hierarchically according to syntactic
complexity (for example, imperative sentences are easier to begin with than any other
sentence type). With pragmatics in mind, the stimuli mayconsist of names of family
members and simple sentences fulfilling functional communication. The words are first
intoned slowly, with constant voicing, using higMow tones. Determining the rhythm,
pitch and stress patterns before beginning the therapy session is important. As the
syllable in the words/phrases/sentences are intoned,it should be associated parallely
with tapping on the patient's hand. The procedures are arranged in an orderly fashion.
The level I begins with humming followed by steps like unison singing, unison singing
with fading, immediate repetition and answering questions. The level II startswith unison
singing with fading, delayed repetition (the patient is asked tointone the target stimulus
after a delay of six seconds following the presentation of the stimuli), and response to
questions. The level III consists of delayed repetition. speechgesang (atechnique in
which the rhythm and the stress are accentuated while the intonational features are
dropped and replaced by the constantly changing pitch of the normal speech) with
fading, delayed verbal repetition (normal prosody items are presented) and response
to questions.
Helm elicited program for syntax stimulation (HELPSS) : This hierarchically based
technique is designed to train patients with agrammatism 19. Agrammatism is a
characteristic feature of nonfluent aphasias ( Broca,s, Transcortical Motor and
Subcortical-anterior/pUtaminal). The task uses a story completion format to elicit 11
sentence types at two task levels - A & B, using multiple exemplars for each type
accompanied by line drawing depicting the story. The hierarchical gradation of sentence
types are in the order of imperative-intransitive, imperative-transitive, Wh-interrogative,
declarative-transitive, declarative-intransitive, comparative, passive, yes/no questions,
direct and indirect object, embedded sentences and future tense forms.
The treatment of aphasic perseveration (TAP) Perseveration is a characteristic
feature of the aphasic syndrome. It refers to an inappropriate continuation or recurrence
of an earlier response presenting even after the withdrawal of the earlier stimulus.
Recurrent perseveration is the most frequent type observed in aphasia (other two types
being stuck-in-set and continuous). The TAP is designed for patients who exhibit atleast
a moderate degree of perseveration on tests of confrontation naming 2O The material
for TAP consists of stimulus items which are either real or realistic substitutes. All items
are accompanied with pictures. The selection of strategies for eliciting desired response
and to inhibit the perseveratory behavior depends on the individual naming performance
and responses to a particular stimulus. A time interval of five to ten seconds are allowed
between the presentation of the stimulus and eliciting the response. During this period
the clinician should help the patient to inhibit any involuntary verbalization. The strategies
used to elicit desired responses are; by providing - (I) Gestural cue of the object, (2)
Tactile cue of the object by making the patient to physically manipulate the object, (3)
Drawing cue - by drawing picture of the object or by making the patient to draw the
picture, (4) Descriptive sentence cue - by describing the function of the object, (5)
Sentence completion task, (6) Graphic cue - by writing the first letter or two of the
word or by asking the patient to write the word and read aloud, (7) Phonemic cuing,
(8) Oral reading - by reading the entire word for the patient, (9) Repetition, (10) Unison
speech or singing (as in MIT).
Treatinentjbr Wernicke 's aphasia (TWA) . The technique is designed to improve
auditory comprehension of aphasic patients. It is desirable to use this method in patients
with moderate to severe degree of comprehension deficits accompanied by relatively
good ability for word-picture matching and ability to read picturable words. In the
beginning, the corpus of words as a base material for initiating the program are prepared
on the basis of matching and reading tasks. The items are presented hierarchically
beginning with word-picture matching followed by reading the word aloud, repetition
of the word verbally presented, and spoken word-picture matching. Here, deblocking
of auditory modality is achieved through the visual
Controlled Auditory Signal Presentation Strategies (CASPS) The technique aims
at providing controlled auditory input to enhance auditory processing22. The technique
has been tried in patients with Wernicke's aphasia. Since, the auditory linguistic signals
often evoke irrelevant responses from the patients, this technique begins with the
presentation of non-linguistic auditory signals as training stimuli. The training starts with
matching of tapping interms of number of times the tap is heard as the clinician presents
them sitting in front of the patient. Once the tar&et behavior is achieved, the clinician
withdraws the visual cues and presents the stimuli only through the auditory modality.
The next step would be to train the patient to match the various pitch patterns hummed
by the clinician. The patterns consists of combination of low and high pitch variations in
a set of three signals. Example, low-high-low, high-high-low etc. Similarly, duration of
signals are also varied in matching tasks. The duration pattern consists of clinician
humming the signals by controlling the length and combining them in an unit of three
signals. Example, long-short-long, short-short-short etc. This method is based on the
pitch pattern and duration pattern tests used in central auditory test battery. Gradually
linguistic units are introduced by the clinicians using various procedures described earlier.
Auditory Perceptual Training (APT) : This is an yet another technique being applied
to improve auditory attention and perception in patients with finer deficits in auditory
perception as seen in mild Wernicke's or conduction aphasia.The procedure involves
the auditory presentation of the target stimuli (foreground signal) to be identified by the
patients in the presence of background distracting signal. The target stimuli include
digits and words. The presentation is done via cassette tapes.The recording protocol is
depicted in table 2. The background signal contains a passage on which the target
stimuli are superimposed. In the beginning, to make the task simplerand easier, the
background signal (a running passage) is recorded using afemale (or male) speaker in
the secondary language of the patient while the foreground signal (two digits series to
begin with and later hierarchically extended upto four digits series)is read by a male (or
female, in relation to background signal) speaker in the primary languageof the patient.
The patients are asked to identify the target signal after listening either by verbally
uttering the signal or by writing down. As the training advances the task is made complex
by gradually withdrawing the contrasts one-by-one. Firstly, the voice contrast is
withdrawn and the signals are recorded by using single speaker. Later, the language
contrast is removed and both the background and foreground signals are presentedin
the primary language of the patient. Finally, when once four digits series arereached
for presentation and desired benefits are accrued, the digits are replaced by words and
the same protocol is followed for recording and presentation. The responses from
patients on this technique have been encouraging.
Other Approach
Reeducation Approach : It is a "bottom-up" approach to reteach or rebuild linguistic
skills in the aphasic individuals. It involves extensive linguistic drilling fromindividual
sound level to connecting sounds to form syllables and then to real words to sentences.
Motor placement approach is practiced to make the patient to produce sounds/syllables!
words and eventually sentences. Programmed instruction approach is also adopted to
teach syntax. In patients with naming difficulty retraining is done through the useof
picture cards. The patients are made to hear, repeat, trace and read. The patients with
comprehension deficits are approached through systematic drilling usingboth auditory
and visual modalities. The patients who do not benefit from these traditional methods
are taught alterna-tive form of communication such asmanual sign language or artificial
Table 2: Protocol of recording for APT
Foreground signal
Background signal
The response eliciting
stimuli (digits) are
Distracting signal: a
spoken by a male speaker
in the primary language
of the patient. stimuli
passage read by a female
speaker in the secondary
language of the patient.
are randomly superimposed
on the background signal.
The response eliciting
stimuli (digits) are
spoken by a male'speaker
in the primary language
of the patient. stimuli
are randomly superimposed
on the background signal.
The response eliciting
stimuli (digits) are
spoken by a male speaker
in the primary language
of the patient. stimuli
are randomly superimposed
on the background signal.
Distracting signal: a
passage read by a male
speaker in the secondary
language of the patient.
(Withdrawal of voice
Distracting signal: a
passage read by a male•
speaker in the primary
language of the patient.
(Withdrawal of language
Note: Voice contrasts are interchangeable.
To start with two digit series are used and later as training progresses three and four
digits series are introduced in Phase I itself.
Digits are replaced by words (from bisyllabic to multisyllabic) and the same protocol is
Computer aided aphasia treatment: Rehabilitation of aphasia using computers have
demonstrated its tremendous application. A global improvement with generalization to
untrained items and untreated oral naming deficits has been reported using computerized
written naming program in patients with naming difficulty24 Using acomputerized visual
communication system in expressive aphasics has revealed a significant improvementin
verb retrieval and production of correct tense forms with good generalization effect25.
is effective even in
It has also been reported that computer aided rehabilitation program
patients with long standing severe communication disability, and regardless of type and
severity of aphasia26. Computer based reading training with chronic aphasic adults has
also shown to be effective27 However, controlled efficacy studies are required to
document the effectiveness of using computer in aphasia treatment althoughdata available
are encouraging. This would pave way for the development of programs on sound
theoretical principles and neuropsychological models 28•
Family Counseling Therapy
Aphasia is a disability that disrupts the family organization and living with such a member
is challenging for both the family and the affectedindividual. It is a sort of catastrophe
for both the family as well as to the individual when once the deficits in the affected
individual comes to the surface. Its impact is devastating and is multifaceted, more so
on the economic front if the individual happens tobe the breadwinner. The communication
deficits are so varied in them that the family is pushed into confusions and finds it difficult
to cope up. Family therapy is important in aphasiarehabilitation as the prime concern is
to provide stimulating and cohesive environment tothe aphasic patient to help in regaining
language functions. Thus, strong counseling is an integral part of the aphasia management
program and is the initial step in the rehabilitation process to educate the family regarding
status of the patient and the communication deficits. The family need to be taught how
to communicate with the patient, to develop better interaction, to reduce catastrophic
behaviors and to motivate the patient, and to keep the self of the patient in high esteem.
The family members have a greater role to play and can influence the outcome of
treatment services.
Concluding remarks
The purpose of this paper is to provide the basic information about the methods and
strategies available for the rehabilitation of aphasics. The techniquesthat have been
mentioned are not exhaustive. They have been drawn from various resources and from
the author's own experience. For further reference to well designed therapeutic
approaches ,the reader is advised to refer to the article published by Holland et., al6.
Figure 1. Aphasia Rehabilitation Technoques
P.S. Abbrevations in the diagram coespond to that used in the text.
A flow chart (Fig 1) is provided here as a ready reckoner to get an immediate idea of
which technique may best suit what type of aphasic disorder (fluent or non-fluent).
Many of the techniques mentioned here demand atleast a minimum level of education
as they include reading and writing as input and output modalities. Thus, some of the
techniques certainly does not suit our illiterate population as it is and may have to be
modified for its best suitability. At times the clinician may have to develop an indigenous
technique to suit the individual's need. As a general rule, a "child approach" of language
training with adult aphasics should be avoided. Caution should be exercised while selecting
the stimuli keeping the sociocultural, educational and professional background of the
patient in mind. In some instances technique may have to be either dropped when it
failed to demonstrate any change in the language behavior of the patient or may
necessitate a change in the technique itself. As an end result we are interested in reestablishing communication in aphasics and hence "openness" in our approach is
important. Our objective is to maximize the overall abilities of aphasics despite the
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Therapy. Austin:Pro-ed, 1991.
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Psychosocial aspects of neurological rehabilitation
H. Pravin Kumar, Anupam Kishore, Bijil Simon, K. P. Sivaraman Nair, T. Murali
Psychosocial factors play a crucial role in rehabilitation of patients with neurological
disabilities. These factors may contribute to initiation or exacerbation of illness and
interfere with treatment and rehabilitation. Patients with neurological disabilities and
their family are usually confronted with drastic changes in the life style. The patient may
be unable to communicate, move or perceive and may lose control over bowel,
bladder and sexual functions. Neuronal damage can cause cognitive and behavioural
changes. All these can result in psychiatric morbidity in both the patient and family that
require pharmacological or psychological intervention.
Psychosocial factors and Neurological disability
The psychosocial factors affect the course of neurological disorders in several ways.
Habits like smoking, alcohol and substance abuse can cause neurological impairment.
Psychological factors also influence how patients respond to their symptoms. Patients
may neglect their illness because of depression, anxiety or personality problems.
Lack of compliance, motivation, understanding, optimism and tolerance can interfere
with treatment and rehabilitation. Living with neurological disabilities involves an element
of psychological adjustment. Most people acknowledge the need to modify their lives
by the demand of their illness.
Psychological factors affecting disability include age, personality, severity of the illness,
expectations about outcome, attitudes of family and treating team, employment status
and loss of control over environment and self'. Young patients with serious illness often
react with resentment. They may regress to depressive state or object to the diagnosis.
Elderly patients accept the medical problems but continue to fight their illness with
stoicism. The negative attitude of the treating team influences the patient's reaction to
illness. When the staff is calm, knowledgeable and reassuring, even the most anxious,
resisting and angry patients can benefit. False hope of cure by the treating team lead to
frustration and anger when the symptoms persist. Patients' emotional response to
illness is influenced by the family concerns. Anxiety of the spouse is easily transmitted
to the patient. Complexities of the family dynamics affect the patient's behaviour The
lack of privacy; fear of surgery or unfamiliar procedures and death in the same ward
increase the problems. Job security and medical benefits available at the place of
employment can help in reducing the psychological stress. Real or threatened loss of
parts of body or body function, loss of social status, loss of future plans, home, job and
occupation increase the psychological stress. Physical illness is particularly experienced
as a loss when it interferes with social or occupational functioning, social status, impairment
of particular skill and talent. Loss of love and approval, bowel and bladder control,
sexual function and integrity of personality may also contribute for distress.
Psychiatric disorders in Neuroiogically disabled
Common psychiatric disorders seen in neurologically disabled patients include reactive
depression (secondary depression), organic depression (endogenous depression),
anxiety disorders, mania and psychosis. Reactive depression is a psychological reaction
to the physical impairment. Organic dçpression can result from structural brain disease
or from alterations of neurotransmitter mechanisms caused by drugs or biochemical
disturbances. Clinically major depression is associated with longer duration of inpatient
rehabilitation, deficient self-care and delay in resumption of premorbid social activities.
It is found that the severity of depression does not appear to be related to severity of
neurological impairment. Clinical features include: a) feeling sad and gloomy,b) loss of
interest or pleasure in activities that are normally enjoyable, C) reduced energy leading
to increased fatiguability, d) disturbed sleep and appetite, e) pessimistic view of the
future, 1) death wishes or suicidal idqation, g) crying splls h) non compliance with
drugs or non adherence to treatment, i) lack of cooperation with treating team,
j) reduced activity level and withdrawal, k) multiple body pain and i) self neglect.
Anxiety disorder is common in patients with neurological disability. It manifests as
apprehension, worries about the future misfortune, feeling on edge, difficulty in
concentration, motor tension, restlessness, fidgeting, tension headache, trembling, inability
to relax and autonomic hyperactivity producing, sweating, tachycardia, tachypnoea,
epigastric discomfort, dizziness, and dry mouth.
Mania is seen in patients with head injury , epilepsy and stroke. It manifests as:
a) elevated mood or marked feeling of well-being out of keeping with the individuals
circumstances, b) increased energy level c) increase in the quantity & speed of physical
and mental activity, d) increased sociability, e) over talkativeness, f) overfamiliarity,
g)increased sexual energy h) loss of social inhibition, i) distractibility,j) grandiose or
over-optimistic ideas and k) decreased need for sleep.
Psychosis is also seen after head injury and epilepsy. Clinical features of psychosis
include a) delusions, b) hallucinations, c )irritability / anger outburst, d) thought disorders,
e) disturbed sleep and f) loss of touch with reality.
Spinal cord injury
Immediate Psychological responses
Altered awareness: Only 50% of the patients were initially aware of a disability 2
The initial awareness of the accident and it's sequelae are followed by a variable period
in which individual is unaware of what occurs around him. Anaesthesia and shock may
contribute to such unawareness apart from psychological defense.
Anxiety . It is the most common symptom because survival is the major concern for the
patient and families. This is particularly so in patients with severe illness who require
ventilatory support. Other common cause of anxiety is the abrupt loss of sensation
over most of the body and inability to move body parts leading to panic and fear.
Altered sensory input from the body, restriction of movements, isolation in the hospital,
perceptual restriction results from monotony of the hospital routine and lack of intellectual
activity leading to anxiety, tension, inability to concentrate and organize one's thoughts.
More severe reactions are characterized by vivid sensory imagery and hallucinations.
Grief. Grief is the complex emotional response to loss. It may manifest as sadness,
anger, guilt, anxiety and despair. According to Kubler-Ross3 a typical grief reaction
passes through the stages of 1) denial, 2) anger, 3) bargaining, 4) acceptance and
5) adjustment. Partial or total absence or distortion of the grief responses may predispose
pathological grief reaction or depression.
Delayed responses
Depression : Depression is common in patients with paraplegia or quadriplegia. Some
investigators believe depression is inevitable, some regard depression as a normal
phenomenon as part of the phasic rsjonse to spinal cord injury. Sensory deprivation
and insufficient arousal may result in lethargy and disinterest in the early post injury stay.
Few studies have systematically assessed the incidence of depression in spinal cord
patients. Somasundaram et a14 had found that approximately 70% of the patients had
mild depression .In contrast to grief, depression is characterized by sustained lowered
mood with sleep and appetite disturbances. Suicide and self neglect are not uncommon
long term problems. Follow up studies have shown that 50% of spinal cord injury
patients express suicidal thoughts. Maximum successful attempts were seen in the first
five years of injury. Older and unmarried individuals are at greater risk. Wilcox and
Strauffer5 found that suicide or self neglect accounted for 43% of the 50 deaths recorded
in patients with spinal cord injuries.
Alcohol and drug abuse may represent a maladaptive adjustment to neurological
disabilities. Among patients with spinal cord injuries, 60% have a history of alcohol use
disorders and 30%-60% have a history of drug abuse6. In addition, marijuanamay
decrease spasticity after spinal cord injury, thus reinforcing its use. It has been reported
that 78% of patients undergoing rehabilitation who has a history of premorbid alcohol
use, resume its use late in rehabilitation or few months after discharge6. Patients may
use alcohol to alleviate the pain and to improve the sleep. Substance use may be a
symptom of underlying depression.
Anxiety: The classic precipitant of anxiety includes helplessness, threat of impending
injury, separation from secure environment, separation from loved one's, social
disapproval and decreased self-esteem. Most of these factors are present when the
person suffers from spinal cord injury. Anxiety may be expressed in the form of
restlessness, hyperactivity, irritability, and verbosity. Sometimes anxiety builds to a level
of pan ic with symptoms of hyperventilation, palpitation, tremulousness, cold andclammy
hands and a variety of cardiac, pulmonary, and GIT symptoms. Somasundaram et al4
reported that 26% of spinal cord patients having severe anxiety.
Behavioural problems : Behavioural problems seen in these patients include aggression,
yelling out and inappropriate sexual behaviout. These behaviours can be expression of
depression, adjustment problems, anxiety, cognitive dysfunction or personality problems.
In general only few patients of spinal cord injury suffer from these problems, but it
disturbs the therapeutic alliances.
Pain : Chronic pain is a major sequelae to spinal cord injury. Christensen & Jenson7
classified chronic pain into 6 types -root pain, segmental pain, phantom body pain,
visceral pain, dysaesthesia and allodynia. Pain may occur, be prolonged or exacerbated
by psychological reasons. Psychological factors like anxiety and depression lead to
muscle tension and result in pain. Less often pain may be due to hysterical conversion
symptoms. Patients with chronic pain are often depressed. Psychological factors play
a primary role in the etiology of pain in certain 'pain proneindividuals'. Frequently
they display marked hypochondriacal preoccupation and tend to deny life problems.
Chronic pain is often reinforced by multiple secondary gains like care from family
members, cmpensation and relief from responsibilities. Wagner Anke eta18 studied
the association between pain and quality of life, 46% experienced the pain of moderate
to severe intensity and 70% scored high on GHQ (General Health Questionnaire)9
indicating psychological distress and reduced quality of life.
Body image disturbances : Body image is highly individualized, subjective and integrated
sense of what one look and feel about self. Malformed bodies can trigger reactions
including anxiety, depression, apprehension and obsessive ruminations. Bor&° found
distortion of body image in 100% of patients studied. These subjects had phantom
limb phenomena involving cutaneous sensation ,postural hallucinations and disturbance
of proprioceptive body image. These disorders most often affect the lower limbs.
Disordered perception of posture or movement, kinetic body image and disorder of
perception of somatic size, bulk and continuity are also frequent. Patient often do not
discuss these experiences and find them terrifying. The anatomical basis for disorders
of body image following spinal cord injury is not clear.
Adjustment and coping with spinal cord injury
Spinal cord injury threatens the individual's well being at a number of levels. Apart
from imposing physical and practical restrictions, it is a social stigma, it has sexual
implications and it requires a radical revision in the person's self image. After injury he
or she may pass through a number of phases, from shock to defensive retreat to
acknowledgement and to adaptation. Full emotional adjustment may never be achieved
for the minority of injured. One of the major problems that the spinal cord injured has to
cope with is the attitude of other people. The disabled are often regarded notjust as
physically incapacitated but as ineffective in all ways. Some people have pitytowards
the disabled and disability gives them the licence to interfere even when help has not
been requested."12
After injury people have to cope not only with the objective difficulties but also with
their own feelings about their disability. They experience helplessness and frustration,
regret for what has been lost and anxiety about future. Individuals differ notjust in the
degree of impact of the disability experienced but in the way in which they qualitatively
view this impact and attempt to minimise it.
Different patients use different defense mechanisms to cope with the injury. Many
subjects cultivate an appearance of not caring, of being able to cope in order to hide
their vulnerability from others. These patients use suppression as defence against showing
their real feelings to anyone. In denial person refuses to acknowledge the fact of disability
and its implications. They don't let themselves think too much about their feelings.
They may be reluctant to associate with other disabled people or to be identified with
the disability. They feel that they are the same as they were before disability and nothing
has'changed. Denial does not necessarily imply a distortion of reality. It can be a
positive bid in the evaluation of situation and towards maintaining the status quo rather
than making adjustment in the light of changed circumstances. Denial is a universal way
of averting anxiety. Acceptance to disability means coming to terms with one's limitations.
It means changing one's life style and limiting one's horizon's, learning patience and not
wanting to do more than one can. This kind of attitude can bring equanimity and peace
of mind.
Younger patients, women, satisfactory pre-injury life history and supportive interpersonal
relationships, high ego strength, ability to delay gratification and conscientiousness are
associated with good adjustment. Patients with little personal effort and ambition with
psychopathic traitS often cope poorly. Passive dependent personality predicts a need
for longer term assistance with adjustment .Following appropriate grieving for loss of
physical and associated social functioning, the spinal cord injured patient must develop
a modified identify. Lack of motivation, dysphoic mood, death wishes and self neglect
are suggestive of adjustment disorder.
Sexuality, Menstruation and pregnancy
Spinal cord injury affects the sexual functioning, with the nature and degree of effects
depending upon the level and completeness of the lesion)34"5'6 There may be problems
in finding a comfortable and satisfactory position for intercourse. Spasm and incontinence
may also interfere with sexual intercourse. Men may have difficulty in achieving and
maintaining erection. Physical sensations will also be affected. Sex under these
circumstances loses it's attraction. Few subjects withdraw from sexual activity totally.
Those with loving and understanding partner with a spirit of compromise can maintain
satisfactory sexual relationships. The disabled person can focus uponthose sensations
and sources of pleasure which are still intact. In spite of the absence of genital sensation,
other erogenous areas such as breasts, shoulders, neck and mouth may enhance the
sexual experiences. There are reports of orgasm and phantom orgasm in paraplegics.
The emotional fulfilment of the sexual act may be stressed rather than physical aspects.
There may be greater feeling of involvement in ones partners' pleasure as opposed to
the gratification of ones own need. For many people the greatest problem is the loss of
confidence in their attractiveness as a partner and in their identity as sexual being as
opposed to their ability to perform sexually. These self doubts and feelings of inadequacy
can be more difficult to overcome than specific problems ofsexual performance.
Women have been reported to have less impairment in sex role function and identification
after disability than men. The adjustment may take several years. Sexual disability may
lead to post injury divorce, further complicating adjustment. The woman's self concept
and degree of perceived independence may have an impact on her participation as a
sexual partner. Women must acknowledge that sexuality is an integral part of her being
and be encouraged to experiment with their sexual expression. Orgasm may be
described as similar to that of able bodied women or as a wide variety of psychological
experiences such as pleasant, relaxful and glowing feelings; Vaginal lubrication may
occur reflexely with lesion above T 9,not at all with lesions between T 10 and TI 2 and
psychogenic lubrication may occur in lesions below T12.
Amenorrhoea may occur following spinal cord injury although it's occurrence is not
uniform and menstruation generally returns in 1 year. Reports of secondary amenorrhoea
after spinal cord injury ranges from 50% to 60% . Women at or near the climacteric
may become menopausal. Birth control is a complex issue after spinal cord injury.
Intrauterine device usage is limited by the patients' lack of pain sensation. Oral
contraceptives may further increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis. Pregnancy limits
radiological evaluation and surgical treatment of spinal cord injury. Premature labour is
more common. Breast feeding may precipitate autonomic dysreflexia.
Psychosocial factors play a significant role in determining functional outcome following
stroke. Educational status, acquired skills, premorbid vocational status, financial status,
physical environment of home, type of community services available and family are
some psychosocial factors determining the eventual functional outcome. The family
should be guided to provide support, encouragement and realistic help to the subject
without over protectiveness or rejection. Since many problems are situational,
interpersonal or related to family dynamics, psychosocial counsellors like psychiatrists,
psychologists and psychiatric social workers are needed to provide help for victims
of stroke and their families. The buffer to attenuate the patient's psychosocial distress
may not be provided by the family alone There is a needfor support from society to
ensure that these patients' feel cared for, loved, valued and esteemed.
Depression The prevalence of post stroke depression may vary from 2%'to 65%18.
The peak incidence of depression is between 6 months to 2 years after stroke. The
post-stroke depression may be due to organic alterations or a psychodynamic reaction
to disability. There is a special relationship between stroke and depression. Stroke
patients have higher incidence of depression than those with other medical conditions.
Location and size of infarct influences depression. Left hemisphere lesions result in
depression more often than right hemisphere or brain stem strokes.19'20'2' Proximity of
lesion to frontal pole has been found to be an important determinant of post stroke
depression. This might be related to involvement of monoamine pathways. Serotonin
receptor activation in uninjured right hemisphere may serve to ameliorate depression22.
The factors important in determining the subject's reaction to stroke include age,
sex, level of functional impairment, psychological defense, family environment, economic
resources and social support. However, with the passage of time psycho-social factors
become increasingly important and may obscure the effects of lesion per se on the
mood. Post-stroke depression, apart from the classical clinical features of depression
may also present as stoical attitudes, automatic patterns of behaviour, poor motivation
for therapy and irritability. Management consist of anti-depressant drugs or
psychotherapy or a combination of both. It is preferable to use the newer antidepressants
which have less of anticholinergic side effects like fluoxetine or sertraline.
Cognitive impairments : Dementia usually occurs following multiple strokes whose
deficits add up. Strokes within the dominant hemisphere are particularly liable to produce
dementia. In multi-infarct dementia mental changes lag behind physical signs. Cognitive
deficits may compromise attempts at rehabilitation. They cause difficulty in assessing
the extent of impairment. Disturbance of language is a constant source of frustration
for the patients and the therapists. Impaired comprehension, difficulties in communication,
inattentiveness, perseveration and neglect due to disturbed awareness of self or of
space may result in the failure of rehabilitation programme
Organic personality changes . Personality change secondary to stroke may persist
01. progress even after the physical sequelae improve. The changes outlined by
Slater23 include inability to adjust to new circumstances, becoming anxious or irritable
over small matters, avoiding new experiences, stereotyped behaviour pattern,
catastrophic reaction. irritability or abusiveness and heightened hypochondriacal
concern. Constitutional predispositions may be accentuated and susceptible person
may become suspicious or develop frank depression. These changes are important
obstacles to rehabilitation and proper assessment and therapeutic interventions are
Psychosis . Hypomanic episodes have been reported after right hemispheric stroke.24
Psychosis after stroke present with auditory and visual hallucinations, agitation,
persecutory delusions and confusion. Levine and Finklestein25 and Rabins et a126
suggested that psychosis is associated with right sided stroke. Pure Hallucinatory
phenomenon "peduncular hallucinosis ofLhermite." have been related to lesions in
thalamus, midbrain and pons. Management would consist of appropriate anti-psychotic
Other psychi atric disorders . Crying or occasionally laughing uncontrollably and
without warning is an embarrassing and disabling aftermath of stroke. This is seen in
10-20% of stroke patients. The episodes are provoked by trivial emotional stimuli or
on enquiry about the symptom. it is viewed as a formof disinhibition and is related to
infarcts in anterior left hemisphere. Treatment includes anti-depressants or levodopa.
Persistent agoraphobia and social withdrawal often associated with fear of looking
conspicuous on account of disability has been reported.
Two types of behaviour might be seen in post stroke patients - unrealistic striving for
independence and unrealistic dependency. Thus patient may deny hislimitations or in
his enthusiasm may interfere with progress. Sexual inadequacy, mainly impotence can
be either a precipitant of depression or a sequelae of it. Marital discord secondary to
constraints is another important sequelae and needs to be handled to ensure better
quality of life.
Psychiatric disorders seen in association with epilepsy include depression, anxiety,
psychosis, personality changes and behavioural disorders.
Depression and anxiety: Depression and anxiety in their various forms are common
in patients with epilepsy. A clear distinction between reactive and endogenous origins
of anxiety and depression is difficult. In some patients both reactive and endogenous
factors co-exists. The commonest causes for anxiety/depression are27:
I. anxiety and depressive reaction to acquiring the label of epilepsy,
2. anxiety and depressive reaction to social or family problems of epilepsy,
3. prodromal anxiety and depressive symptom before a fit,
4. anxiety and depressive symptom as aura,
5. depression/anxiety as an ictal experience,
6. post-ictal depressive/anxiety symptoms,
7. anxiety/depression occurring in association with epileptic psychoses,
8. true phobic anxiety related to seizures.
Psychosis . Psychosis in epilepsy may be ictal, post ictal or inter ictal in nature. Psyd 'sis
as a manifestation of seizure activity may be a continuous aura of a complex partial
seizure. Post ictal psychosis is the most common form of psychosis in epileptic patients.
Clinical features are aggressiveness and excitement. Hallucination are usually in auditory
modality and delusions are usually paranoid in content. Post-ictal psychosis occurs
with relative preservation of attention and orientation. Delusions and hallucinations are
more structured and systematised. Mood alterations are common. There is typically an
increase in seizure frequency, cessation of seizure with lucid interval of one to two days
followed by psychosis. Spontaneous recovery is usual but episodes of psychosis often
recur if seizure control lapses.
The prevalence of inter-ictal psychosis varies from 4.5 %28 to 9.25%29 . The psychosis
is characterised by preservation of warm affect and personality with predominance of
visual rather than auditory hallucinations. Formal thought disorder, incoherent thought,
emotional withdrawal, catatonia and negative symptoms are less common. The possible
risk factors are onset of epilepsy before 20 years, duration of epilepsy more than 10
years, antiepileptic polytherapy, high dose antiepileptics, left sided focus, temporal lobe
focus and female sex.
Personality change: Subtle and more prominent personality changes have been
frequently reported in people with epilepsy3° . The clinical features include altered
sexuality ,viscosity , hypergraphia, religiosity, obsessiveness, emotionality, impulsivity,
anger, dependence, slowness and perseveration.
Aggressive behaviour: Aggressive behaviour in patients with epilepsy has been
reported before, during or after seizures. The prodromal symptoms consists of in-itability
and verbal aggression. Ictal aggression is usually verbal or physical consisting of
spontaneous, nondirected, stereotypedbehaviour directed at objects or individuals.
without provocation or as a
Aggressive acts during complex partial seizure can occur
reaction to an environmental stimulus. The post-ictal aggression occursfollowing
generalized seizure or complex partial seizure. Physical restraint provokes the aggression
which is usually terminated when restraint is withdrawn. Aggressionalso occurs with
post-ictal psychosis especially in patients with paranoid delusions and threatening
hallucination. Inter-ictal aggressive behaviour has often been reported in patients with
temporal lobe epilepsy but remains controversial. Risk factors for aggression includes
focal or diffuse neurologic lesions, cognitive impairment, medication such as baibiturates,
male sex and violent behaviour as a child.
Family attitude towards patients with epilepsy: The family members response to
the diagnosis of 'Epilepsy 'consists of denial, rejection or overprotection31. if parents
use denial, they expect their child to be 'normal' in every way. This is often good as it
encourages self-reliance and responsibility for managing their own treatment. But it
can also be disastrous as child may not be able to competeequally with peers and fulfill
parental expectations. Some families may use rejection. It leads to the exclusion of the
patients by the family. He or she may be written off as unattainable or endurable, not
worth wasting time on. Too low expectation of person's potentialleads to problems at
school and at work. At the other extreme the patient may be sowatched over as to feel
'smothered'. Extreme reactions always imply intense anxiety on the partof the parents.
Parental overprotection adversely affects the patients. They haveundue dependence
on family, reduced peer group interaction, limited development of social skills, problems
on becoming independent as teenager and life long passive dependent attitude.
Social aspects of epilepsy: Epilepsy is often a secondary handicap. It is not the
seizures but the attitude of society that cause great concern. The negative attitude of
teachers results in difficulties for appropriate education. The negative attitude of peers
results in difficulties in finding friends and leisure time activity. Public attitude towards
epilepsy and misconceptions about this condition accountfor the difficulties experienced
by the epileptic patients in getting employment31.
Psychosocial handicaps of epilepsy: At an indivi&iallevel the psychosocial handicaps
of epilepsy includes low self-esteem, learned helplessness,external locus of control,
dependent attitude, limited social skills, depression, pessimism and limited social orbit31.
Education and epilepsy: A substantial portion of a child's life is spent at school and
this environment will greatly influence the child's academic, emotional and social
development. The majority of children with epilepsy are attending normal schools.
According to National Child Development Study, UK, two thirds of affected children
were educated in the normal school system. As a group, at age 11, their calculating,
reading and general ability scores were slightly lower but within one SD of the mean of
the study. This advocates that children even with special needs should be educated
wherever possible in normal schools but there is no guarantee of educational success
because academic difficulties can arise due to number of seizure related factors. An
early age of onset and long duration of seizure is associated with poor educational
prgress. Children with C.P.S with the seizure arising from the dominant hemisphere
perform poorly at studies. Frequent seizures have a detrimental effect on cognitive
functions and scholastic performance. Occurrence of subclinical electric paroxysms
as evidence of abnormal EEG impair the cognitive performance. Polytherapy regimens
or high levels of antiepileptic medication, low expectations of parents and teachers,
frequent and prolonged absences from school, low self-esteem, anxiety of the children
and negative attitudes of the persons adversely affect the scholastic performance32' 33
A minority of children with epilepsy may require some special educational input. The
provision of specialized input will generally be made after conducting a multiprofessional
assessment taking into account medical, educational, psychological and other factors
including the view of parents. lithe consensus is that the children has special educational
needs, provision must be made to meet these needs.
Head injury
Psychiatric disorders and head injury: Head injury is associated with several
psychiatric disorders34. The depression following head injury can be directly due to
injury to the brain especially in the areas of left dorso lateral frontal and left basal ganglia
lesion. It is of acute onset and tends to have a longer course Reactive depression
secondary to sequelae of head injury is of late onset.Manic features have been found in
association with right hemisphere injuries particularly with those involving basotemporal
cortex or limbic structures. An increased prevalence of post traumatic epilepsy has
been reported among patients with post traumatic mania,Patient has got high chances
of developing psychosis whenever the period of coma extends beyond two days. It
can occur when injury affects left frontal area, basal ganglia and both temporal and
parietal areas. It may be difficult to differentiate from protracted delirium as both are
characterised by hallucinations and fluctuating consciousness.
Head injury may cause an obsessional illness where patient experiences repetitive,
uncontrollable, intrusive or irrational thoughts or doubts in clear consciousness.Persistent
somatic symptoms like headache without any obvious cause can occur after recovery
from head injury. Head injury also gives rise to emotional changes like irritability or
depression and multiple somatic symptoms. Post traumatic stress disorder occurs due
to excess and persistent anxiety after injury. There is reexperiencing of the accident,
distress and avoidance of activity associated with head injury, difficulty in concentration
and increased startle responses. Chronic agoraphobia, chronic paranoid delusional state
and pseudodementia have been associated with head injury.
Behaviour and Head injury: Behavioral changes are most frequently seen when damage
occurs to the frontal lobe. A combination of behavioural and cognitive changes can
cause severe disability and adjustment problems.The personality changes can be
egocentricity, loss of empathy, impatience, impulsivity, restlessness, impaired self control,
silliness, irritability and altered sexual drive. Motivational disorder following head injury
manifest as loss of initiation or extreme form of negative behaviour leading to a kind of
drowsy, lethargic, passive and retarded appearance. The conceptual and behavioural
rigidity is also asequelae of head injury.35
Impairments are most frequently noted in social adjustments due to poor anger control.
Patients tend to misjudge their deficits and try to resume their social and occupational
activities prematurely. This will lead to embarrassment and frustration. Patients will be
having problems in getting and keeping ajob, making constructive use of one's own
time and formation and maintenance of satisfying interpersonal relationships. They
typically improve in the first 6-12 months after injury.In some patients these behaviours
may persist. A head injured person should make social adjustments in the fields of
activities of daily living, mobility, social relationship, leisure time activities and work.
Cognitive functions and Head injury: This is usually the most disabling sequelae of
head injury. Certain domains of cognitive functions like memory are disproportionately
affected by head injury. Memory is affected due to damage of neuronal structures like
hippocampus and anterior temporal lobe involved in storage and retrieval of information.
Recent memory is more affected than other forms of memory. Duration of the post
traumatic amnesia in head injury is of prognostic significance. Recovery from post
traumatic amnesia and ability to form new memories does not necessarily mean that
patients learning and memory function has returned to normal levels.36'37
Profound attentional deficit is a common feature of headinjury. It may represent a
residual disturbance of consciousness and arousal. It can also remainas a long term
sequelae. Vigilance and focused attention are affected after closed head injury.
Impairment in the attention affects the speed of performance and complex decision
taking abilities. Most common language disorder after head injury is anomia. Acute
aphasic deficits due to primary left hemisphere damage have good prognosis. Putamen
and internal capsule injury will give rise topost traumatic mutism. Right frontal lesion
will result in tangential, socially inappropriate talk. Executive functionsconsists of abilities
of initiation, planning and regulation of behaviour. Functions of information processing
and motor speed are affected in head injured patients. They lack the mental flexibility
to assess words, difficulty in generating their own models and ideas. Perseveration is a
main feature.
Patients with minor head injury have impairment in memory and information processing.
This improves in one to three months Early cognitive impairment which is resolving is
more suggestive of neurogenic origin. Chroric cognitive impairment ismore likely to
reflect depression and other psychological conditions. Repeated mild closed head
injury may give rise to cumulative cognitive impairment34.
The aim of Cognitive Rehabilitation is to train the patient in the use of strategies to
improve performance despite impairments in cognitivefunctioning. External props like
memory prosthesis, appointment books, reminder notes etc can be used toimprove
recall. Executive function deficits can be rectified by training to break down the tasks
into simple component steps.Training social behaviour includes skills in topic maintenance,
delivery of essential messages, and talking in balanced turns during conversation38.
Psychosocial interventions
Various psychosocial intervention techniques employed in neurological rehabilitation
include pharmacotherapy, behavioural modification, family therapy, group therapy and
When a patient receives multiple drugs for his neurological disorder addition of
psychotropic drugs is known to cause interactions. The drugs used forpsychiatric
conditions should not interfere in the management of neurological disease. The drugs
used in the treatment of depression are tricyclic antidepressants(imipramine/amitflptilifle)
(fluoxetine/sertraline). The choice of drug
or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
depends on the side effect profile of the drugand the neurological symptoms
The drugs used in psychosis are either low potency neuroleptics (eg: -chiorpromazine)
or high potency neuroleptics (eg:-haloperidol/rePeridOne). Extra pyramidal symptoms
(EPS), dystonia and tardive dyskinesia ( TD)are more common with high potency
neuroleptics. In patients with brain disease, low potency neuroleptic are known to
reduce the seizure threshold For anxiety the drugs used are benzodiazepines (aiprazolam)
or low dose tricyclic antidepressants.
Behavioural modification
Basic principles of behaviour modification are keep the environment simple, simple
and concrete instructions, provide frequent and consistent positive feedback, avoid
monotonous activities, breaking tasks into smaller steps,use the least restrictive setting
and select appropriate target behaviour. Antecedent is the preceding event in the patient's
environment that act as a cue to the individual.An antecedent event is followed by the
occurrence of a behaviour. If the behaviour is chosen for modification either to increase
or decrease, it is referred as target behaviour. It is categorised as: (a) excess (occurs
too often) eg. anger outburst, impulsivity, socially inappropriate talk etc, (b) deficits
(not occuning often enough) eg. communication deficits, (c) stimulus control disorders
(behaviour at the wrong place/time/person) because of loss knowledgeof the more
abstract situation in which behaviour should occur. Behaviour followed by a consequent
event that is going to affect the future rate, duration and intensity of the behaviour.
Behaviour modification is done using differential reinforcement which consists of giving
positive reinforcement for desired behaviour and withholdingit in their absence.
Supportive and brief psychotherapy
Effect of stressors can be modified by the response adopted towards them. People
acquire skills of mastery and adaptation during childhood and beyond. They arethe
personal and social resources to face a crisis. Responses that are directed at the
reduction of stress or the resolution of a crisis are described as 'coping'. Brief
supportive psychotherapy is helpful for patients in rehabilitation with physical disability.
It helps the patient to explore different ways of coping with their disability and to select
those that best meet their needs and resources .The objectives of psychotherapy are:
(a) promotion of the patient's best possible psychological and social functioning, thus
enabling individuals to cope with psychological difficulties, (b) increasing the self esteem
and self confidence, (c) minimising the impact of the threatening event and(d) transfer
of the source of support from professionals to family and friends. The elements of
supportive psychotherapy are reassurance, explanation, ventilation, guidance and
Family and care givers
Family has to develop special coping mechanisms to deal with the acute and long term
effects of neurological disorders39'40. During the acute phase family membersexperience
the sense of relief if patient is out of danger. During the recovery phase the family must
adjust to accepting the patient as permanently different. Care giver experiences burden
and psychological morbidity, so attention to the caregiver's mood,function, health and
family life is important. There is a direct relationship between the degree ofcaregiver's
stress and the amount of help needed by the patients. The more dependent the patient
more is the care giver stressed. Women are the predominant caregiver in India.
are expected to assume uncompensated care giving role to the dependent spouse,
parents or children while continuing to perform regular home keeping.
In the general population, 25 % of the families function at a level that places them at risk
for significant family problems if a family member becomes disabled. The care givers'
stress is one of the major factors in institutionalisation of the elderly disabled. Families
with disabled face changes in roles, leisure activities and health status of other members.
Acknowledging that it is the family notjust the patient who is disabledmay produce
anger and resentment. As many as 50% of the caregivers can be expected to develop
major depression38. A large number of employed caregivers mustquit theirjobs to
provide care. Families require education and follow up as knowledge regarding the
illness will reduce anxiety resulting in better cooperation with therehabilitation team.
Little information is available regarding the effect ofparental disability on children. If
the children are less than 15 years old, they are likely to develop emotional problems
and regressive behaviour.
In the first few days following the illness, families may experience a great sense of
helplessness. Facilitating communication of the patients and family's need andpromoting
the ventilation of feelings may reduce the family's turmoil. Thefamily should be
encouraged to share feelings regarding the illness. The treating team shouldprovide
explanation, understanding and support to the family.Education to the family members
regarding the nature of illness and prognosis is essential.
Group therapy
Group therapy approaches used in rehabilitation settings include education group and
family group. In group therapy patients and families have an opportunity to share their
experiences, their sense of isolation and stigmatisation and educate themselves by
learning from the experiences of other members of the group.Members of such groups
respond to one another with a special sense of understanding and empathy because
they share the unique experience of illness and its aftermath.
The concept of self help group for mental retarded and schizophrenic patients' families
are already catching up in India, so it is important to develop self help group of the
families of neurologically disabled. Further, this group can be a source of strength for
programmes like community based rehabilitation because it is the time to take the
rehabilitation of the neurologically disabled to the community at large.
Rehabilitation, outcome, and quality of life
King4' mentions that 10 high ranked items for good quality of life ( QOL ) include
health care, faith in god, spouse, family happiness, emotional support, friends, home,
standard of living, children and family health. Several factors that modulate QOL are
amenable to interventions like counselling.The techniques which promote healthy coping
include discussion of perceptions of control, stress management and guidance in
reappraising perceptions of being useful and ways of enjoying life. Family members
play a critical role in promoting such behaviour change and must be included in
interventions to facilitate healthy coping. Assessment of sexual concerns with appropriate
education and counselling should be a included in the package. Since depression and
social support are two most important predictors of QOL they must be attended to.
Referral of patient to support groups and education of family members and the wider
community of the importance of social support may help to strengthen support.
Other variables such as optimism, cognitive appraisal of the significance of disability,
coping skills and family functioning are also predictive of QOL. A high ADL score on
discharge is another variable indicating good QOL. Thus we find that psychosocial
rehabilitation minimize disability, enhance likelihood of returning home and reduce social
Advances in medical technology and treatment have extended the life expectancy of
patients with neurological disorders. Quality of life is now an important issue for these
patients. There are a growing number of patients who may need to adapt to severe and
chronic disabilities. For many persons as their condition progresses or stabilizes, medical
interventions have only a limited role. Long term management of the disability is likely to
be carried out by the patient and care givers.Therefore, the patient's ability to deal with
their illness at a psychosocial level becomes a critical issue. The members of the treating
team need to be aware of these issues. In the Indian context psychosocial problems of
the neurologically disabled has not been addressed. The family may find it difficult to
give care due to psychological disturbance in patient and family, socio economic and
environmental factors. A successful rehabilitation programme need to address these
issues.In India Neurorehabilitation is in the stage of development. So far the focus was
on medical rehabilitation and psychosocial aspects of disability were neglected.It is
time to look into the psycho social factors for the successful rehabilitation of the
neurologically disabled patient. Future strategies can be towards a community based
approach, development of self help groups, empowerment of the community and
development of a multidisciplinary approach to rehabilitation. It is necessary to sensitise
various governmental and non governmental agencies and to ensure a good coordination
among agencies. Public awareness on the possibilities of a long term rehabilitation for
these disabled and provision of community supports are to be encouraged. With the
present level of knowledge and simple intervention techniques in psychosocial
rehabilitation, it is possible to alterthe quality of life of atleast aportion of the neurologically
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Balance Rehabilitation
Rajendra Sharma, Romi Singh
Balance problems are commonly seen in elderly individuals and patients with
musculoskeletal and neurological disorders. The objective quantification of the balance
has become more popular than the traditional subjective measures. For better balance
rehabilitation, complex factors involved in maintenance of human balance are important.
Normal Balance
Balance control is an essential component for locomotion. It may be defined as ability
to maintain function equilibrium. A body is said to be in a state of balance or equilibrium
when the projection of Centre of Gravity (COG) falls within its base of support and
when the resultant of all the forces acting on it is zero. Human balance is a complex
process whichinvolves the integration of sensory information from end organs to detect
body position and utilization of this information by central nervous system (CNS) to
produce adequate and proper motor output in the form of automatic postural responses.
The sensory factors involved for the maintenance of balance are from visual , vestibular
and somato-sensory (proprioception) inputs. The sensory information is integrated by
CNS. The resultant discrete leg and trunk muscle responses maintain the COG over
the base of support. Appropriate hip or ankle strategies are required to maintain balance
depending upon the nature of perturbation of surface or sensory condition.
Biomechanically, aperson has to move within "the cone of stability "to maintain balance.
The cone of stability is an imaginary cone projecting upwards at an angle of 12.5
degree anteroposteriorly and 16 degree side to side. If the COG falls outside this
imaginary cone of stability! limitation of stability (LQS) during upright standing or any
other functional activities, there is arisk of fall orimbalance.
Common causes of balance disorders seen in rehabilitation practice are cerebrovascular
accidents (CVA), Parkinsonism, Cerebellar dysfunction, central or peripheral vestibular
dysfunction, traumatic brain injury, orthopaedic trauma and old age2. In cases of total
knee or hip replacement and amputation of lower limbs balance training is required to
facilitate proper weight bearing on the affected leg. In neurological diseases the equilibrium
or saving reactions are often slowed or lost. Hence reeducation by facilitation
features predominantly in the rehabilitation process.
Standing balance: Upright stance control
Even during quiet standing, small adjustments are made especially around anide joint to
ensure maintenance of upright posture. These minute adjustments can be observed and
measured using a force platform as postural sway . The characteristics of standing
balance in a subject are referred as postural sways. As already described, the
maintenance of upright stance i.e. standing balance isan automatic active sensori-motor.
process which maintains the body's COG over its base ofsupport. It is assumed that
the triad of sensory inputs viz visual, vestibular, somatosensory form amultiloop control
of postural stabilization 4. However, it remains unclear whether the selection of these
inputs occurs in a hierarchical way or not. It has been suggested that vestibular system
is the most dominant of the three inputs in a normal subject and the visual system is
responsible only for fine tuning of posture 5,6•
Back ground of balance assessment
As early as 1853 Romberg reported measurement of postural sway. Non quantified
assessment of balance were done in earlier times by
observing displacement or alignment
of segmental body parts and ability to maintainpostural balance in progressively different
conditions in sitting, standing, tilting in various direction.
Semiquantitative measures of stance were reported by Mithell & Lewis in 1886 by
positioning patients in front of a grid pattern and observing sway. Hindsale in 1887
graphically record attaching a smoking paper to the top of subjects head (ataxia graph
). In 1950, Miles used Ataxia meter to record
sway on a kymograph using a pulley
system attached to the subject's head. Hellebrandt in 1938 measured changes in COG
in forward and lateral planes using a movable platform that recorded changes in the
partial weight of the subject with a kymograph. Thomas & Whitney used a force platform
in 1959 to record the horizontal forces of reactionat the feet and centre of foot pressure.
Force platform have been used by various researchers. Quantitative measures of stance
have been encouraged by the anticipation of the therapeutic measures having potential
effects upon the equilibrium of stance. Force platforms record the horizontal forces of
reaction and these were basically developed toobserve body sway.
Shumway Cook et a! used static force plate system to examine postural sways in
hemiplegic and normal subjects '. The effectiveness of centre of pressure ( COP)
biofeedback was compared to conventional rehabilitation therapeutic practices to
COP biofeedback was found to be
establish stance stability in hemiplegic patients. The
more effective in reestablishing stance stabilitythan traditional training methods. Stribely
et al used a force platform and observed useful in providing quantitative measures
absolute force in
stance 8• They described steadiness scores, equivalent to the average
the forward and lateral direction. The increase in swaywith the eyes closed recognised
the importance of visual input in maintaining equilibrium.
Balance assessment in clinical practice
test- It was initially used to described qualitativeinformation of visually
detect oscillation of body segments in diffrent intabes dorsales by Romberg a German
Neuro-pathologist, in 1853. The test is widely used in clinical neurology till today as
"Romberg-test". It provides quantitative information by evaluatingquiet standing with
the eyes closed to differentiate sensory or cerebellar ataxia.
I . Romberg
2. Platform stability- This technique can find out the quantitative measures of postural
sway during quiet standing. Excursion of COP provides important information on sway
characteristics. Force platform measure the vertical & horizontal components of forces
acting on them. The point of application of the force on the platform is known as centre
of pressure (COP). In a completely static situation the vertical projection of COG will
be exactly equal to the position of COP. Human body is composedof many segments;
The movement of these body parts produces accelerations measured as forces by the
force platform.
3. Computerized dynamic posturography (CDP) -The CDP is the latest available
system for objective evaluation of various components of balance in dynamic test
conditions. Quantitative test results help us to identify the defective componentsthat
can be selectively used to facilitate balance rehabilitation and enhancement of
compensatory mechanisms. Visual biofeedback training- usingvolitional control of COG
helps to develop automatic pattems.During training automatic control mechanism are
provoked by working near the limits of stability .
Functional approach to balance rehabilitation
For the rehabilitation of balance problem it is important to understand the complex set
of responses that aie responsible for maintaining balance and interaction between various
components. Balance disorders result from defective interaction of these components.
For a successful balance rehabilitation training programme, it is mandatory to identify
the defective components, primary and secondary effects of compensation and periodical
monitoring of the effects of treatment on the patient's immediate performance needs.
The various aspects of balance problems are: sensory problems, strategy selection,
preparatory problems, sequencing and timing problem and scaling problem.
1. Sensory problems : Sensory problems for balance dysfunction may be because of
vestibular (trauma/degenerative), proprioceptive (traumatic brain/spinal cord injury) or
visual (as in elderly) systems. Loss of one sensory input may be compensated, but
when two systems are faulty major balance problem arises. Management of sensory
problems causing balance difficulty focusçs on facilitation of damaged system and/or
encouragement of remaining system. For example, proprioceptive system can be
stimulated by standing eyes closed on a firm surface, shaking heads during walking.
Similarly, narrow base standing, tandem walking, standing on rocker boards, walking
on rough terrains and stairs help to promote visual and vestibular systems.
2. Strategy selection : Strategy selection problems as in Parkinsonism can also cause
difficulty in balance. Such patients are unable to select proper ankle, hip or stepping
strategies in response to environmental demands. In Parkinsonism the subjects have
both ankle and hip strategies, but they are unable to use them in isolation. The timing,
sequencing and amplitudes of strategy all appear normal. Management should try to
concentrate on the strategy components i.e. hip and ankle strategies to develop control
on the components separately at appropriate, sensory input according to environmental
demands (surface perturbations). To help patients formulate ankle strategy, subjects
stand on board, firms surface, feet away from counter or wall on which he practices
sway around ankle,joint, leaning forward/backward with hips and knee held in extension.
For encouraging to stimulate hip strategy, training should be with the subject standing
on a narrow or foam surface or over a slowly moving surface.
3. Preparatory problems - Preparatory problems arise when there is absence of normal
anticipation/preparatory responses to a stimulus. Such patients (e.g. Parkinsonism) are
treated by appropriate strategies (hip and ankle) by providing perturbation over the
base of support.
4. Sequencing and timing problems - These problems arise when there is no normal
sequential muscle contraction from distal to proximal around ankle joint in response to
a perturbation. There is also no appropriate timing formuscle contraction i.e. unwanted
co-contraction of muscle groups are seen e.g. in spastic hemiplegia, cerebral palsy etc.
Treatment of sequencing problem includes practising appropriate strategies. The
functional electrical stimulation can be used for sequencing of the muscle groups. The
EMG biofeedback also can be used to encourage the patient to contract the muscle
groups under training.
5. Scaling problem: The scaling problems arise when the amplitude of responsedoes
not fit to the stimulus. Cerebellar dysfunction (ataxia) patients have gotthe scaling
problems with faulty amplitude of contraction leading to overshooting or undershooting
of target. However, they have got adequate strategies and normal sequencing. Scaling
problems are effectively treated with visual biofeedback training. When force platform
or CDP is available, patient can be given training to control COG movements with
visual feedback. Otherwise practising minimal motion while balancing over a rocker
board may also be helpful to reduce large amplitude in scaling problems.
At present we have systems available for objective evaluation of various components
of balance in dynamic test conditions. One of such system is posturography which is
the science of recording change in body position as a means of assessing of change of
body position for maintaining balance can be assessed with the help of moveableforce
plates to cause perturbation of body and resultant forces are recorded. CDP also
allows assessment of effectiveness of training programme and modification of training
programme, if required.
Advanced system of CDP has facility for sensory organisation testing (SOT). The
SOT allows assessment of use of various sensory components of balance viz, visual,
vestibular, proprioceptive by using disturbed sensory inputs. The SOT thus provides
objective measures of COG control under varying sensory conditions. It is also possible
to get composite scores and different test scores. It also allows sensory analysis and
ratio which determines the use of somato-sensory, vestibular, visual inputs and use of
inaccurate visual information. CDP allows sensory motor training by maximizing the
use of sensory inputs. It also helps in stimulation of impaired sensory system and
promotion of compensatory use of intact sensory system in cases of permanent
impairment using visual biofeedback. Advantages of CDP for patients are visual
feedback, clear and attainable goals, maintain attention and increase motivation. For
clinician instantaneous feedbacks of patient performances, objective measurement,
customised treatment session and feedback on handling skills are advantageous.
Balance and mobility centre
There are already functioning units of balance and mobility centre in the Western countries.
It consists of different specialities all coming under one roof: physiatry, otology, neurology,
orthopaedics, geriatric medicine and occupational medicine. It has produced favourable
outcome in the rehabilitation of many balance problems. The advantages are increased
efficiency, reduced time for visiting several specialists and reduced cost of treatment,
number of visits and test procedures etc. Balance and mobility centre tries to have a
comprehensive assessment of all components of balance by integrating surgical,drug
and rehabilitation management. The team is either led by a physiatristor otologist for
coordination of the team members. The importance of such centre in the prevention of
falls in elderly population is already showing good results. With increasing geriatric
population, morbidity following fal Is has been a problem affecting the quality of life in
these population. With the introduction of prevention offal! programme on elderly
incorporating balance rehabilitation concepts, there is reduction in morbidity from falls.
Study of age and gender effects on postural control measures using CDP has confirmed
moderate to good retest reliability by Hageman et al 2.The authors observed larger
sway in older subjects with increased movement time, but did not find any gender
effects on postural control.
Thus, recent advances in technology, particularly dynamic computerizedposturography
has lead to improvement in detection and quantificatioriof balanceproblems. Itprevides
information about contribution of varioussensory inputs to imbalance in different
neurological disorders. Further, this technique is also useful in the rehabilitation.
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Arch Phys Med Rehabil 1995; 76:961.
Hasan HS, Lichtenstein MJ, Shiavi RG. Effect of loss of balance on biomechanics platform
measures of sway: influence of stance and a method for adjustment. J Biomechanics 1990;
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Management of Spasticity
Michael P Barnes
Spasticity is a major challenge to the rehabilitation team. Spasticity can prevent or
hamper function, cause pain, disturb sleep, cause unnecessary complications and present
major difficulties for care workers. This article reviews a variety of options available
for the clinical management of spasticity. The need for clear treatment goals and robust
outcome measures is emphasized. The initial management should focus on the alleviation
of external exacerbating causes before specific treatment is considered. Physiotherapy
is vital for correct positioning, seating, use of orthoses, splints and casts and for other
antispastic measures such as use of heat and cold, ultrasound and electrical stimulation.
The use of oral medication is discussed. Peripheral nerve blocks and botulinum toxin
are two local treatments which are proving very useful and are under-used and undervalued techniques. In more severe cases intrathecal medication can be helpful. Surgical
procedures such as rhizotomy and orthopaedic corrections may sometimes be necessary,
but usually only for the most severe cases or in those who have been poorly managed
in the earlier stages. Overall, the clinical management of spasticity often depends on a
variety of different approaches necessitating the involvement of a comprehensive
rehabilitation team.
Most physicians and therapists working with physically disabled people probably feel
that they can recognize spasticity when they see or feel it. However defining it is much
more difficult. Spasticity has been narrowly defined as a motor disorder characterized
by velocity dependent increase in tonic stretch reflexes (muscle tone) with exaggerated
tendon jerks'. This narrow definition, however, does not do justice to the additional
symptoms that there are often associated with increased muscle tone. Spasticity is
usually accompanied by permanent voluntary muscle activation resulting in weakness
and clumsiness of voluntary movements. The definition can be broadened further to
include other positive symptoms such as flexor or extensor spasms and the "claspknife" phenomenon, exaggerated cutaneous reflexes and contractures2. Yet even these
broader definitions do not give any flavour of the bewildering variety of spasticity that
can occur in different individuals and even in the same individual at the same time. The
extent and type of spasticity can fluctuate widely according to position, fatigue, stress,
drugs and even the weather. One limb may have one pattern of spasticity whilst another
limb may have a different pattern. Spasticity is a very dynamic phenomenon and is a
major challenge to the rehabilitation team.
Goals and Outcomes
The treatment of spasticity, like all rehabilitation processes, must start with the
establishment of specific achievable goals and a carefully planned strategy to achieve
those goals. The first question is, is it necessary to treatment the spasticity at all?
Spasticity can be useful for the individual. For example, spasticity in a leg may serve as
a brace to support the individual's weight for transferring or walking. People with
spinal cord lesions can use flexor spasms to help them into a proper seating position or
to act as an aid in dressing. Some consideration also needs to be given to the significant
side effects of some treatments, particularly the weakness and fatigue induced by antispastic medication.
In general terms, there are three potential aims of treatment; to improve function, to
reduce the risk of unnecessary complication and to alleviate pain. Occasionally, a
justifiable aim is not specifically to help the patient, who may not perceive any problems
with spasticity, but to make nursing easier for the main carers and to assist with the
maintenance of hygiene, dressing and transferring.
Once a goal has been established then normally an outcome measure should be chosen
that allows goal attainment and progress to be monitored. Most measures of spasticity
are measures of impairment and not measures of disability or handicap. The clinical
goal should have appropriate clinical outcome measures. For example, if the aim of
treatment is to reduce pain, then little is achieved by monitoring the Ashworth scale.
There are number of motor oriented disability scores that can be used to monitor
functional effects of anti-spastic treatment programmes, from the broad based Barthel3
to the more comprehensive FIM4 to more specific walking or hand function tests .
Occasionally, specific assessment of spasticity is useful, particularly in a research
environment. Unfortunately there are very few properly validated and reliable clinical
assessments. The modified Ashworth scale6 is the best known. However, there have
been only two studies of reliability of this scale6'7. The original paper by Bohannon and
Smith6 was only concerned with the elbow joint and the second paper by Sloan and
others7 confirmed reliability for the elbow, but showed a rather poor interrater reliability
for the knee flexors. Validity and reliability for this scale is not known for otherjoints.
A variety of other assessment procedures are available. These tend to be either
biomechanical and neurophysiological. In the former category, many attempts have
been made to use mechanical techniques to measure torque/angle relationships with
spastic joints during passive flexion and extension8. A valid technique for the
measurement of spasticity of the knee is the pendulum test9 which is a more sensitive
measure of spasticity than the Ashworth scale. The pendulum test involves the
appropriate joint, eg. knee, being held in extension and released and spasticity is
measured as the rate of decay of oscillation of the limb. Obviously this is a difficult test
to perform in smallerjoints or in severe spasticity. Quantitative neurophysiological
measurements of spasticity have largely been developed as research tools.
Measurements mainly focus on characteristics of the H reflex, particularly suppression
of the reflexes by vibration and by reciprocal inhibition. These techniques are well
reviewed by Shahani and Cross'°.
The problem with biomechanical or neurophysiological measurements of spasticity is
that such techniques are cumbersome and impractical in a clinical setting. They can also
provide a false estimation of the functional effects of spasticity, as measurements are
usually taken in static rather than dynamic situations. Practising clinicians, for the moment,
will have to rely on the modified Ashworth scale in combination with practical, simple
and preferably quick measures of disability related to the goals of treatment.
An approach to treatment
Alleviating and exacerbating factors: Spasticity should be seen as a symptom that
has a variety of underlying causes. This is particularly important for people who are
comatose, cognitively impaired or unable to communicate. Common causes for the
onset or exacerbation of spasticity are urinary retention or infection, severe constipation,
skin irritation such as pressure sores, or increased sensory stimuli from external causes
such as ill fitting orthotic appliances and catheter leg bags. Occasionally, exacerbation
of spasticity can indicate an underlying abdominal emergency or lower limb fracture,
particularly in those who are unable to appreciate pain and not able to localise their
Positioning and seating: Correct positioning, certainly for the immobile patient, is the
Incorrect positioning in bed, particularly in the
most important aspect of management.
early stages after stroke or brain injury a major cause of unnecessary spasticity.
by facilitation of the tonic labyrinthine
supine position easily exacerbates extensor spasm
brain injury exhibit an asymmetric
supine reflex". Similarly, a number
tonic neck reflex which in the supine position will encourage a windswept posture
characterised by asymmetric position of the pelvis with one hip assuming a flexed position
in abduction and external rotation whilst the other hip assumes and abducted and
internally rotated posture. This is a common causeof later orthopaedic problems,
particularly subluxation of the hip on the abducted side'2. It is often a matter of
experimentation to find a posture that reduces spasticity. Side lying, sitting and standing
can all be helpful in different circumstanceswith the primary aim of reducing spasticity
and also producing stretch on the spastic muscles as well as facilitating the use of
antagonistic muscle groups. Unfortunately, wedo not know how long muscles need to
be stretched in order to prevent contractures, although guidelines have been produced
which suggest that each joint should be put through afull range of movement for at least
two hours in every twenty four'3.
Proper seating is vital. The fundamental principleof seating is that the body should be
contained in a balanced, symmetrical and stable posturewhich is both comfortable and
maximises function. There are many different types of seating systems. All should have
the ultimate aim of stabilisation of the pelvis without lateral tilt or rotation, but with a
slight anterior tilt so the spine adopts a normal lumbar lordosis, thoracic kyphosis and
cervical lordosis. The hip should be maintained at an angleof slightly more than 900
backward slope. Knees and
and this is often facilitated by a seat cushion with a slight
ankles should be at 90°. In people with severe spasticity, this posture may not be
entirely possible or may require a variety of seating adjustments such as foot straps,
knee blocks, adductor pommels, lumbar supports, lateral trunk supports and a variety
of head and neck support systems. An adaptable and adjustable system is useful,
particularly in people with complicated disabilities and in those with varied and
changeable conditions such as multiple sclerosis'4.
Splinting and casting: The application of splints and casts can prevent the formation
of contractures in the spastic limb and serial casting can improve the rangeof movement
in ajoint that is already contracted - a new cast being applied every few days as the
range improves'5. It is not known whether this is purely a mechanical effect or whether
splinting actually reduces spasticity. There is conflicting EMG evidence
Unfortunately, there is no clear agreement on the most appropriate design nor the length
of time a splint should be applied to give the desiredeffect. It is a field that requires
much research.
Physiotherapy: A physiotherapist has a vital role to play in the assessment and
management of positioning, seating, splinting and casting and the use of orthotic devices.
However, do other physiotherapy techniques have an anti-spastic effect? Cold inhibits
spastic muscles, but the effect is short lived, perhaps outlastingthe application of the
cold by about half an hour1 8• Paradoxically, heat is also used for relaxation of a spastic
muscl&9. Ultrasound is one way by which heat can be applied. Unfortunately, the antispastic effect is relatively short lived. Electrical stimulation has been used in some
centres. Alfieri2° found that ten minutes of stimulation to the finger extensors produced
a decrease in spasticity and improved range of movement lasting for up to three hours.
Scib and colleagues21 have recently found that surface electrical stimulation of the tibialis
anterior muscle has an antispastic effect that last for upto twenty four hours. Potissk
and colleagues22 have confirmed similar findings with the use of TENS machine,but the
effects only persisted for up to forty-five minutes. Unfortunately, the role of electrical
stimulation and other related techniques, such as EMG biofeedback andelectrical
vibration is still not clear. None of these appear to have much long term benefit but can
have useful short term effects, particularly when used as an adjunctive treatment with
other measures, such as the fitting of orthoses.
There are a number of different physiotherapy techniques such as Bobath23,
proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation24 and the Brunnstrom technique25. All claim
an anti-spastic effect. There is, however, little evidence that any particular technique is
better than the other for the management of spasticity. Larger scale prospectiveand
controlled studies or single case studies are urgently needed to address this question.
Oral Medication: Oral anti-spastic medication has very limited use in theoverall
management of spasticity. All available agents are limited bytheir side effects, commonly
drowsiness and weakness. The most widely used anti-spastic drug is baclofen, a GABAB receptor agonist that probably has other pre-synaptic inhibitory effects onthe release
of excitatory neurotransmitterS such as glutamate, aspartate and substance P. It is a
commonly used drug, but it is interesting to note that there is infact no convincing
evidence of efficacy in spasticity disorders of cerebral origin26. It should be administered
in divided doses as it has a short half-life. A total daily dosage of up to 80 mg is
standard. There appears to be little benefit of increasing the daily dose beyondthis
level. In addition to the usual problems of drowsiness and weakness it can occasionally
induce hallucinations.
An alternative agent is dantrolene sodium, which has a peripheral mode of action via a
direct effect on suppression of release of calcium ions from the sarcoplasmic reticulum
of muscle with consequent inhibition of excitation, contraction and coupling27. It is an
effective anti-spastic agent if introduced in slow incremental stages up to a maximum
of 400mg daily in divided doses. As well as the usual problems of drowsiness, weakness
and fatigue, there is the additional potential complication of impairment of liver function
which necessitates monitoring liver function tests.
Di azepam is the earliest anti-spastic agent introduced and, whilst effective, it has serious
problems of drowsiness and fatigue and is rarely of benefit to the patient 28 A new
agent, appears to take effect by preferential inhibitionof poly-synaptic spinal excitatory
pathways. The drug also has an effect on stimulation of alpha 2 receptors 29• It is
certainly comparable to baclofen as an anti-spastic agent and indeed may even be
slightly superior30. 54 Whilst sedation, weakness and dry mouth can be problematic,
tizanidine may exhibit slightly less side effects than alternative agents.
A number of other anti-spastic agents have been the subject of small scale studies.
None have really stood the test of time, or at least have not been subjected to larger
scale evaluation. Clonidine3, glycine32, threonine tetrahydrocannabinol34 and
orphenadine are a few examples of drugs that probably do have an anti-spastic
effect, but whose place in the overall management of spasticity has yet to be determined.
Nerve blocks: Khalili and others 36 were the first to describe the use of phenol for
selective peripheral nerve block, by a percutaneous approach. A surface electrode is
normally used to locate the peripheral nerve. A needle with insulated shaft is then used
as an exploratory electrode and the needle tip manipulated until a good muscle contractile
response in time to the needle stimulus is observed. At this stage the phenol is injected.
Any accessible peripheral nerve can be blocked in this manner. The obturator is probably
the commonest and most accessible nerve and gives rise to very satisfactory reduction
in abductor spasticity. The posterior tibial nerve is also a useful injection site for the
relief of calf muscle spasticity and often abolishes troublesome clonus or facilitates the
fitting of an ankle foot orthosis. Hamstring spasticity can be alleviated by blocking the
sciatic nerve or possibly the branches to the hamstring muscles themselves. It is less
easy to block the many branches of the femoral nerve to the quadriceps muscle and
equally difficult to locate the nerve supply to the ileopsoas for the relief of hip flexor
spasticity, although some authors have described a paravertebral approach using
radiological control. It is also possible to block the median and ulnar nerves as well as
the musculo-cutaneous nerve for the relief of flexion spasticity at the elbow. The side
effects of this technique depend on whether a mixed motor-sensory nerve is blocked
with the consequent risk of dysaesthesia or whether the block is confined to motor end
points. The most common problem is obviously loss of motor function but if there is
any doubt as to the potential functional effect of the nerve block then bupivacaine
should be used before definitive block with phenol or alcohol. The incidence of
dysaesthesae is highly variably and reported from 3-32% but fortunately this complication
usually consists only of a transient burning sensation lasting a few days although
occasionally more persistent dysaesthetic pain can result. Damage to the local structures
is possible and local pain, oedema and infection have been reported, butfortunately
rarely. Overall, phenol and alcohol nerve blocks are useful for focal spasticity either as
definitive procedures or as an adjunct to other technique37 38•
Botulinum toxin: Botulinum toxin type A produces dose related weakness of skeletal
muscle by impairing the release of acetylcholine at theneuromuscularjunction. It is
now an established first line treatment for focal dystonia. A number of studies have
now shown that the botulinum is useful for the management of spasticity3940. It is
particularly helpful for spasticity in the leg adductors, calf muscles and the upper limb
flexors. The technique is simple - botulinum is diluted in normal saline and is injected
intramuscularly. In readily identifiable and palpable muscles no EMG identification of
the muscle is normally required. The dose varies considerablyaccording to the bulk of
the muscle and the number of muscles to be injected. An average dose in unilateral leg
adductors is approximately 500 Dysport units or about 150 Allergan units. Botulinum
toxin injection is a safe and effective technique withvery few side effects reported in the
literature. Occasionally, weakness of the injected muscle or of neighbouring muscles
can be problem, but no general systemic weakness has yet been reported. There are
some disadvantages to the technique including the cost of the toxin, the need for repeat
injections every two to three months and a risk, albeit small one, of developing antibodies.
Fortunately, there are seven types of botulinum toxin and at least two other types that
are now being developed for commercial use which should get round the latter of the
Overall, botulinurn toxin is now an established adjunctive treatment for themanagement
for focal spasticity in the adult. It probably also has an important role to play in the
management of spasticity in cerebral palsied children. It has been shown to improve
gait and reduced the need for multiple surgical procedures41.
Intrathecal techniques: There h-as been much interest in recent years in the use of
intrathecal baclofen for the treatment of more resistant spasticity in the lower limbs.
The technique was first described by Penn and Kroin in 198442. Surgical details of the
technique can vary but would normally involve implantation of a subcutaneous pump to
allow programmable intrathecal delivery of baclofen via a silastic catheter. The baclofen
can either be administered in regular doses or by continuous infusion. The daily dose
needle adjustments according to clinical effect but would normally rangefrom 50-1000
micrograms per day. Both short and long term efficacy have been confirmed in a
number of studies. For example, a recent study43 demonstrated complete abolition of
spasticity in 28 patients who were previously unresponsive to oral baclofen and other
anti-spastic medications. The follow-up period of this study was up totwo years but
averaged eight months. The only significant complications were related to technical
problems with the pump device and included one pump failure and two catheter
replacements. There is a risk of the pump delivering an overdose of baclofen. Tolerance
is a possible but rare occurrence. A similar technique using intrathecal morphine
injections has been described and this remains an alternative.
The first description of intrathecal injections for the relief of spasticity was kellyand
Gautier-Snmith in l959 who used phenol and glycerine injection. Although this
technique is now largely unnecessary it is worth remembering for people with severe
and resistant lower limb spasticity. It is effective but is likely to damage sacral nerves
and shouldtherefore be restricted to those who already have irreversiblefaecal and
urinary incontinence. Sensation is also likely to beabolished with the consequent
increased risk of pressure sores. However, for those already paraplegic and incontinent
it can be a successful technique both to relieve spasticity and more particularly to relieve
pain from spasticity.
Surgical and Orthopaedic Procedures: There is rarely a need to resort to surgical
procedures for the management of spasticity, except in the occasional severe and resistant
case and for the management of fixed contractures. A few techniques,however, are still
useful and should be mentioned.
Anterior and posterior rhizotomy have been performed for many years for the treatment
of severe and resistant spasticity. A more refined technique has been pioneered by
Sindou and Jean Mondo45 - a microsurgical lesion in the dorsal root entry zone (DREZ-
otomy). The procedure can be used for both upper and lower limbs and the authors
have reported consistently good results with minimal morbidity. The less invasive
technique of percutaneous radiofrequency rhizotomy46 has also been described as a
relatively simple procedure with an apparently high rate of efficacy but with a small risk
of recurrence. The author has not had to resort to surgical advice for the management
of spasticity for a number of years but these techniques should be borne in mind for the
severe and resistant case.
Spinal cord and cerebellar stimulation have been reported to be effective in reducing
spasticity but unfortunately the effect tends to be weak and relatively short lived. The
treatment is also time consuming and expensive with some risk of equipment failure and
electrode movement. However, it is a technique that should be recalled there is resistant
pain as a result of spasticity47.
Occasionally, surgical repositioning ofjoints and limbs can facilitate proper seating and
ease positioning and the application of orthoses. One of the more common orthopaedic
interventions is the use of one of the various Achilles tendon lengthening operations for
a fixed equinus deformity often with associated correction of a varus deformity. Hindfoot
varus is normally caused by spasticity of the tibialis posteior whilst mid-foot varus is
normally caused by tibialis anterior spasticity. Often equino varus deformity needs the
combination of Achilles tendon lengthening, tibialis posterior lengthening and split anterior
tibials transfer procedures sometime in combination with lengthening of the toe flexors.
Similar lengthening procedures can be undertaken on the hamstring muscles although
some surgeons prefer hamstring tenotomy and transposition. Hip adduction deformities
are relieved by obturator phenol nerve blocks or botulinum injections but sometimes
obturator neurectomy or adductor tenotomy can be carried out in more resistant cases.
Hip flexion deformities are a problem that are not readily amenable to non-invasive
techniques and, although not always successful, iliopsoas procedures can be performed.
The management of spasticity is complex. Most individuals. even with quite severe
spasticity, can be managed by a combination of physiotherapy and local nerve block or
botulinum injection, sometimes combined with relatively low dose oral medication. The
use of more advanced intrathecal and surgical techniques is rarely needed unless
complications have arisen, often due to inappropriate early management. Spasticity
requires the input of a full rehabilitation team, involving in particular a physician, orthotist
and physiotherapist. Despite the complexities, the management of spasticity can often
yield rewarding results and lead to major improvements in quality of life.
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Neurogenic bladder: Evaluation and management
K. P. Sivaraman Nair, S. Nagasubramanyam
Several neurological disorders cause urological symptoms and urinary problems
aggravate neurological disability. Management of Neuro-Urological disorders require
a proper understanding of physiology of micturition and effects of neurological lesions
on urinary tract functions. A team consisting of neurologists, urologists, gynaecologists,
incontinence counsellors and nurses are required for comprehensive Neuro-urological
rehabilitation. Currently several accurate and sophisticated techniques are available for
evaluation and management of Neuro-urological disorders.
Neurophysiology of Micturition
The function of lower urinary tract is to store and voluntarily release urine. Theorgans
involved in this process are: bladder, the reservoir, and urethra and sphincters, the
outlet. The functions of these organs are coordinated by neural circuits involving
sympathetic, parasympathetic and somatic neurons. The preganglionic sympathetic
neurons are located in the intermediolateral column of the spinal cord extending from
first thoracic to second lumbar spinal segments. Their axons synapse with paravertebral
and mesenteric sympathetic ganglia. The postganglionic fibres supply smooth muscles
of detrusor and internal urethral sphincter. The beta adrenergic receptors arepresent in
the bladder and alpha adrenergic receptors predominantly in the bladder neck and
urethra. The sympathetic stimulation causes relaxation of the smooth muscles of the
detrusor and contraction of the sphincters'. Relaxation of detrusor with contraction of
the sphincters facilitates storage of urine at a low pressure.
The preganglionic parasympathetic neurons are in the inteimediolateral column extending
from second to fourth sacral spinal segments. These nerves travel through pelvic nerves
to pelvic and intramural parasympathetic ganglion. The post ganglionic cholinergic fibres
supply the detrusor and urethral sphincters. The cholinergic muscarinic receptors cause
contraction of the detrusor and relaxation of the sphincters. The external urethral sphincter
part of the somatic pelvic floor musculature is supplied by the pudendal nerve. The
somatic motor neurons of pudendal nerve are located in the ventral horns of second to
fourth sacral spinal segments.
(Onuf's nucleus). The external and internal urethral sphincters are tonically active and
maintain continence.
Nociceptive and tension receptors are located in the bladder wall and urethra. Small
myelinated A-delta fibres and unmyelinated C-fibres carry these sensations through
pelvic and pudendal nerves to sacral cord. A small number of fibres also project through
the hypogastric nerve to thoracolumbar spinal cord. The sensations of pain and tension
are carried by A-delta fibres. The C-fibres are normally silent. They respond to stimuli
only in patients with upper motor neuron lesions 2 The afferent fibres from pelvic and
pudendal nerves enter into Lissauer's tract and divide into medial and lateral collateral
pathways. The lateral collaterals end in sacral parasympathetic neurons. The neurons in
the medial collateral project to pontine micturition centre.
The micturition reflex has two phases: the filling phase and the voiding phase. During
filling phase the intravesical pressure is low. This is due to the intrinsic compliance of the
bladder, inhibition of the sacral parasympathetic neurons and stimulation of the
sympathetic neurons. The activity of the sphincters also increases as filling progresses.
When the bladder capacity reaches its threshold, the voiding phase begins. The Adelta fibres start firing. This in turn leads to relaxation of the sphincters and contraction
of the detnisor. The flow of urine into the urethra further augments the detrusor reflex
resulting in further increase in intravesical pressure. Relaxation of the sphincters in
coordination with detrusor contractions results in voiding.
The process of micturition is basically a function of autonomic and somatic nervous
systems. The different reflexes involved in this process are coordinated by various
spinal and supraspinal centres. Pontine micturition centre (PMC )orBarrington's centre
is located in dorsomedian pons. Virus tracing studies in rats have shown extensive
labelling of PMC after injection into bladder, urethra and external sphincters . The
PMC receives inputs A-delta fibres from bladder and urethra. Fibres from PMC
project to the sacral parasympathetic and Onuf's nucleus. Stimulation of PMC causes
contraction of detrusor and relaxation of the sphincters. Lateral Pontine centre or storage
centre increases the tone of the sphincters and decreases the activity of the detrusor4.
The Pontine centres are inhibited by the neurons of the medial part of the frontal lobes.
The striated muscles of pelvic floor is controlled by neurons of frontal motor cortex.
Basal ganglion and Cerebellum also modulate the activities of pontine centres.
Bradley has described four neuronal loops which control the micturition. The first loop
extends from medial frontal cortex, basal ganglion, thalamus and cerebellum to PMC.
This cortico-pontine-cortical loop is required for voluntary control of micturition. The
loop 2 , the spino-bulbo-spinal ioop, includes afferents from detrusor and sphincters
to PMC and efferents from PMC to sacral parasympathetic and somatic motor neurons.
This loop is responsible for coordinating detrusor contractions with sphincter relaxation.
The PMC activates detrusor reflex of adequate duration to facilitate complete emptying.
Loop 3 extends from detrusor to pudendal motor neurons. This loop causes a reflex
inhibition of tonic urethral sphincter activity during detrusor contractions. Loop 4 A is
the cortical -pudendal motor neuron loop. The pyramidal neurons from frontal motor
cortex project through corticospinal tract to the sacral pudendal motor neurons. The
proprioceptive afferents from the skeletal muscles project back to the sensory cortex.
The receptors in the periurethral tissue project to the Pudendal motor neurons. Stimulation
of this loop 4B result in contractions of the sphincters. The components of loop 4 are
essential for the voluntary control of micturition .
Urological dysfunction in Neurological disorders
The process of micturition is coordinated and controlled by a neural network extending
from frontal lobes to sacral cords. Lesions in any part of this circuit can result in urinary
tract dysfunction. The urinary symptoms may be the presenting feature ofaneurological
disease or it may complicate an established neurological syndrome. The nature and the
severity of the symptoms depend on duration, type, site and extend of the neuronal
The urinary symptoms in patients with brain diseases may be due to associated cognitive,
behavioural and communication problems or due to damage to specific areas of the
brain involved in the control of micturition. In patients with frontal lobe lesions the
incontinence may be part of a behavioural disorder or disinhibition. Subjects with aphasia
may be unable to express the need to void resulting in incontinence. The incontinence
due to cognitive, behavioural and communication problems is common in patients with
stroke, head injury , dementia and cerebral palsy. Incontinence after stroke indicates a
poor functional recovery6. Lesions involving cortico-pontine circuit release the PMC
from voluntary control. This result in uncontrolled detrusor contractions with relaxation
of sphincters. The symptoms include urgency, frequency, nocturnal enuresis and urge
incontinence. Such patients will have insight and will be concerned about incontinence.
Disorders of basal ganglia like Parkinson's disease and Huntington's chorea can cause
urinary symptoms. Frequency, urgency, incontinence and hesitancy due to bradykinesia
of the sphincters are common in Parkinson's disease. Huntington's disease can cause
detrusor hyperreflexia. Lesions involving PMC in dorsal tegmentum of pons result failure
to initiate voiding and urinary retention due to lack of coordination between detrusor
contractions and sphincter relaxations7. This is usually associated with Internuclear
ophthalmoplegia. The common causes are multiple sclerosis, vertebro basilar stroke
and brain stem glioma.
Urinary symptoms are common among patients with spinal cord disorders 2
Immediately after the injury, due to acute spinal shock, the bladder will be flaccid.
These patients suffer from retention with overflow incontinence. This may last up to six
weeks after the insult. The spinal cord lesions above the sacral segments interrupt neural
circuits connecting the sacral cord with PMC and other higher centres. The detrusor
will be hypertonic and hyperreflexic and will contract without relaxation of sphincters.
These patients suffer from incontinence, retention, frequency and incomplete voiding.
Detrusor contractions against closed sphincters result in high intravesical pressures.
This can lead to hypertrophy, trabeculation and diverticula formation in the bladder and
hydrouretronephrosis and chronic renal failure. Presence of residual urine can cause
recurrent urinary tract infections and stone formation. Damage to second to fourth
sacral spinal segments or the spinal roots result in flaccid areflexia of detrusor without
bladder sensations. These patients may suffer from painless urinary retention with
overflow incontinence or continuous dribbling. This can lead to myogenic detrusor injury
due to over distension and recurrent urinary tract infection.
Autonomic failure is a significant cause of bladder dysfunction. These patients suffer
from poor detrusor contractions and loss of sphincter tone. They present with insensitive,
large capacity bladder, poor flow and incomplete voiding. Disorders producing
predominantly autonomic failure include diabetes mellitus, multisystem atrophy,
pandysautonomia, paraneoplastic neuropathy and Riley-Day syndrome. Damage to
pelvic and pudendal nerves due to prolonged labour, extensive pelvic surgeries, trauma,
intrapelvic tumours and chronic constipation can lead to weakness of the pelvic floor
muscles. These patients present with stress incontinence, double incontinence and genital
prolapse 8•
Myasthenia gravis , a disorder of Neuromuscular transmission ,can produce detrusor
weakness. Anticholinergic medications given in its treatment can lead to excessive
detrusor contractions9. Smooth muscle dysfunction can also lead to poor detrusor
contractions. Smooth muscle myopathies may be primary, secondary to chronic
obstruction or part of a systemic myopathy like myotonic dystrophy. The primary smooth
muscle myopathies with involvement of bladder include hereditary and sporadic hollow
visceral myopathies, degenerative leiomyopathy, dense body myopathy, polyglucan body
myopathy and lipid inclusion myopathy lO Chronic bladder outlet obstruction can
cause stretch injury to the muscle. Complex repetitive discharges from striated urethral
sphincters can cause urinary retention. An abnormal muscle to muscle ephatic transmission
causes continuous spasm of the sphincters. This disorder is reported only in women.
An as yet unidentified hormonal imbalance is postulated to be responsibl&'.
Hypertrophied bladder neck muscle with dyssynergia can cause incomplete emptying
or retention in men12.
A proper Neuro-urological evaluation is essential for understanding the pathophysiology
of the urinary symptoms and planning the management. It is important to exclude the
common local causes in these subjects before attributing the symptoms to neurological
disease. Initial assessments include clinical examination and frequency -volume charts.
These simple and objective techniques provide valuable information that is useful in
planning further tests.
Pad testing: This is a simple noninvasive method of assessing the incontinence. In this
test patient wears a pad and performs a schedule of activities for one hour. The pad is
weighed before and after the test. An increase in the weight of the pad by more than
one gram suggests incontinence'3. The scheduled activities ai walking and stair climbing
for 30 minutes, standing up from sitting 10 times, coughing vigorously 10 times, running
on the spot for one minute, bending to pick a small object from the floor five times and
wash hands in running tap water for one minute. The pad test has a high false negative
rate and the results may not correlate with severity of the incontinence'4.
Uroflowmetry: This is a physiological, quick, noninvasive screening test. The voided
volume, maximum flow rate, acceleration rate, average flow rate, time to maximum
voiding and flow time are assessed. The techniques include weight measurement,
momentum exchange, carbon dioxide flow and electromagnetic method'5. The urine
flow rate (UFR) varies significantly with age, sexand volume voided. Normal adult
male UFR is about 15 ml per second. A low UFR is seen in detrusor sphincter
dyssynergia, poor detrusor contractions and mechanical outlet obstruction.
Post voided residual urine : Measurement of post voided residual urine volume is a
simple and objective test of the ability of the bladder to empty. The volume of urine left
in the bladder is measured after voluntary voiding. This can be done either by post void
catheterisation or with a simple hand held ultrasound scanner. Residual volume of more
than 100 ml or 20% of voided volume requires intervention.
Cystometry: Cystometry is the measurement of the pressure -volume relation of the
urinary bladder. Fluid or gas is infused into the bladder at a constant rate. Simultaneously
intravesical and intraabdominal pressures are measured with transducers kept inside
the bladder and rectum. Normal bladder capacity is more than 400 millilitres. Infusion
of normal saline at the rate of 100 ml per minute increases the bladder pressure by' 5cm
of H20. An excessive rise in the intravesical pressure for the volume infused suggests
low compliance. The volume at which first appreciation of fullness, desire to void starts
and detrusor contraction occurs is noted. Excessive uninhibited detrusor contractions
of pressure more than '5cm of H20 during filling phase is suggestive of detrusor
hyperreflexia'6. The Bethenacol supersensitivity test and Bor's ice water test are two
commonly used provocative tests during cystometiy. Bethenacol, aparasympathomimetic
agent induces detrusor contractions in patients with dennervated bladder. Thirty minutes
after a subcutaneous injection of 2.5 mg of Bethenacol the cystometry is repeated. The
rise in the detrusor pressure to 15 cm of water at 100 ml indicates dennervation
supersensitivity. Rapid infusion of 100 ml of normal saline at OOC induces detrusor
contractions in patients with upper motor neuron lesions. Test is negative in normals
and those with lower motor neuron lesions This is a simple and rapid test that helps in
identifying the type of detrusor instability
Videocystourethrography: Videocystourethrography is the fluoroscopic examination
of contrast filled lower urinary tract with cystometry. The purpose of this test is to image
the bladder and urethra with simultaneous monitoring of intravesical pressure. This test
is useful in the diagnosis of detrusor sphincter dyssynergia and its complications like
ureteric reflux and urethral diverticula'8.
Ultrasound scanning: This is a simple noninvasive, less expensive alternative to
Videocystourethrography. Vesical neck located behind the symphisis pubis is difficult
to visualize with transabdominal scanning. Vaginal, transrectal and penneal probes have
been used with different degrees of success
Urethral pressure profilometiy: Urethral pressure should always exceed intravesical
pressure except during voiding. Recording of urethral pressure wasfirst done by Victor
Bonney'9. Currently urethral pressures can be accuratelymeasured with catheter
mounted microtransducers2O The recordings are done with subject in supine position
with 250 ml of saline in the bladder. The catheters with dual transducers are introduced
into the bladder and withdrawn slowly at 2.5 mm per second. As the transducers
passes through the urethra it records the resting urethral pressure. The test is
with patient coughing. The recordings are also repeated at the point of maximal urethral
pressure for two to three minutes. The urethral pressure profile helps inassessing the
outflow obstruction, detrusor sphincter dyssynergia andfunctioning urethral length. The
pressure profile during micturition helps to differentiate between detrusor external
sphincter dyssynergia arid detrusor internal sphincterdyssynergia.
Urethral electrical conductance: The electrical conductance of urotheijum is less
than that of urine or saline. Hence amplitude of current passing between two electrodes
placed in the urethra will increase when urine or saline leaks into theurethra. Small urine
leaks missed with conventional urodynamic studies can be detected with this techniqu&6.
Ambulatory urodynamics: In conventional urodynamic studies saline is retrogradely
infused at a fast rate into the bladder in a controlledenviron.ment. Hence the study may
not'réflect the changes taking place in tile bladder during routine daily life. Ambulatory
urodynamic studies enable natural bladder filling to occur. Patients engage in normal
daily activities that may precipitate the symptoms. Aftervoiding and defecation, microtip
catheters are introduced into the bladder and rectum. Patient is asked to drink 500
of water. A record of events like
urgency, voiding and incontinence is kept. This test is
usually done for twenty four hours and is indicated insymptomatic subjects with
negative urodynamic studies, postural incontinence and sleep enuresis21.
Elect romyograp/jy of sphincters : Abramson firstused electromyography (EMG )in
urological evaluation . The sphincter EMG is used for recording the activity of urethral
sphincter during filling and yoiding phases and to examine the innervation of striated
muscles of pelvic floor. In women directrecording from urethral sphincters is possible
with surface electrodes. Catheter mounted vaginal electrodes are also used for recording
urethral sphincter activity. Direct recording from urethralsphincter is difficult in men.
The anal sphincter behaves similarly to urethral sphincter. Hence it may be used for
evaluation. The anal sphincter EMG can be recordedwith surface electrodes applied
to either sides of anal orifice or anal plug electrodes insertedinto the anal canal. However,
detailed EMG evaluation requires use of needle electrodes. Synchronous EMG and
pressure flow studies ar useful in evaluating incontinence. The
sphincters are tonically
active. Normally during detrusor contractions the sphincter EMG activity will cease.
Ongoing sphincter EMG activity while detmsor is contracting is seen in detrusor sphincter
dyssynergia. Fowler and Kirby'1 recorded complex repetitive dischargeswith low jitter
from urethral sphincters of women with "psychogenic "urinary retention. The single
fibre EMG of pelvic floor muscles is useful in diagnosis of multisystem atrophyana
cauda equina lesions 22•
Sacral reflexes: Sacral reflexes are contractions of parts of pelvic floorin response to
stimuli applied to perineum, genitalia or the mucosa of lower urinary tract. The sacral
reflexes that can be recorded include bulbocavernosus reflex (BCR), pudendoanal
reflex, vesicourethral reflex and vesicoanal reflex23. The afferent andefferent pathways
involved are second to fourth sacral roots. The BCR can be recorded with surface or
needle electrodes after stimulating dorsal nerve of penis. This reflex has two components:
early response at 25-45 milliseconds and late response at 60-70 milliseconds. The
afferents are small-diameter myelinated fibres and the motor efferent are large diameter
myelinated fibres. The early response is an oligo synaptic spinalreflex24 and late response
is a polysynaptic spinal pathway. The motor responses from urethral and anal sphincters
can be recorded with bladder stimulation using cathetermounted electrodes. The latencies
of these vesicourethral and vesicoanal reflexes are longer than that of BCR (59 ms Sd-
8 ms) 25 The sacral reflexes are prolonged or absent in subjects with cauda equina
lesions23. Sethi26 reported that BCR was inhibited during normal voluntary micturition
and this voluntary inhibition was lost in subjects with supra sacral spinal cord lesions.
The sacral reflexes may be normal in subjects with partial cauda equina lesions and
don't test the autonomic nerves23
Pudendal evoked potentials : Pudendal evoked potentials are used for evaluating the
neural pathways from sacral cord to cerebral cortex27 The dorsal nerve of penis is
stimulated with ring lectrodes. The 200 to 400 responses are averaged from Cz' (2
cm behind Cz) with reference at Fz. The latency of Pudendal evoked potentials (40
ms) is longer than that of the sensory evoked potentials from posteriortibia! nerve. This
is due to the slower conduction velocity of the spinal pathways of pudendal evoked
potentials28. This test may be useful in evaluating impotence and voiding dysfunction.
The value of this test in routine clinical practice is not yet clear. Cortical evoked potentials
can also be recorded after electrical stimulation of urethra andbladder with catheter
29,30 a small potential of latency 55 milliseconds can be recorded
from the midline.
Pudendal motor conduction studies Due to its anatomical position the motor coilduction
study of pudendal nerve is difficult. Kiff and Swasb3' used perrectal stimulation with a
bipolar electrode fixed to tip a-gloved finger of the examiner. The recording electrode
was also fixed to the base of the same finger. The nerve was stimulated at the ischial
spine and contractions from anal sphincter were recorded. The urethral contractions
can be recorded with a catheter mounted recording electrode. This test is useful in
identifying pudendal nerve damage particularly in patients with stress incontinence.
Central motor conduction studies: The motor responses of pelvic floor muscles to
cortical or cauda equina stimulation can be recorded. The central conduction time can
be calculated by subtracting the latency of sacral response from that of cortical
response32. Potentials of these tests are still not cleat
The rmal threshold testing: Unmyelinated afferent fibres that carry tei?-lperature
sensation are also involved in the transmission of autonomic impulses. Thus, measurement
of thermal threshold of genitalia is an indirect method of assessing autonomic function.
This technique was used for evaluation of patients with diabeic neuropathy. The only
draw back is that it is a subjective teSt33' .
Sympathetic skin response : Sympathetic skin response ( SSR ) is a simple
electrophysiological test of sympathetic sudomotor function. Electrical, biological and
noxious stimuli can be used to evoke these responses35. The SSR from perineummay
be useful in the evaluation of impotee.
Classification of Neuro-urological disorders
There are several classification systems for voiding dysfunction. These systems are
based on the type and location of the neuroIoical lesion, type and location of the lower
urinary tract pathology effect of the neurological lesion on the urinary tract, urodynamic
observations, and clinical signs and symptoms. Lapides classified the neuro-urological
disorders based on clinical and cystometric findings. The neurogenic bladder was
classified into sensory neurogenic bladder, motor paralytic bladder, autonomous
neurogenic bladder, uninhibited neurogenic bladder and reflex neurogenic bladder 5.
Patients with sensory neurogenic b1addr fail to appreciate bladder sensations. This is
due to interruption of sensory fibres from the bladder to the spinal cord or afferent
tracts to brain. Motor paralytic bladder is a large capacity bladder with painful retention.
Cystometrogram shows absence of bladder contractions. This is due to destmction of
the sacral mo'tor neurons or motor nerves to bladder. In autonomic neurogenic bladder
there is complete separation of bladder from the sacral spinal cord. The patient has no
bladder sensations or contractions. There is painless urinary retention with overflow
incontinence Disruption of cortical regulation of PMC results inuninhibited neurogenic
bladder. This causes involuntary bladder contractions.Withco ordmated relaxationof
the sphincters These patients suffer from incontinence without residual unne The reflex
neurogenic bladder is due to disruption of the pathways between the sacral centres and
brain stem centres. Bladder sensations may be preserved. There are involuntary detrusor
contractions without coordinated relaxation of the sphincters. This results in incontinence
with significant residual urine.
Krane and Siroky5 devised a scheme to describe the urodynamic observations from
combined cystomery and sphincter EMG studies (Table 1). This is the first classification
system based on the füi:ictions of the detrusor and the sphincters. It provides an objective
terminology for descfibingneurourological findings. The Krane and Siroky classification
describes the functional effect of neurological lesion on bladder and sphincter function.
Thus, it helps in selecting an appropriate therapeutic plan. This system requires results
of urodynamic study. It is difficult to apply this system to non-neurogenic bladder
Table 1 Krane and Siroky Classification of Neurogenic voiding dysfunction5
Detrusor hyperreflexia INormoreflexia
Coordinated sphincters
Striated sphincter dyssynergia
smooth muscle sphincter dyssynergia
Non-relaxing smooth muscle sphincter
Detrusor areflexia
Coordinated sphincters
Non-relaxing striated sphincter
Dennervated striated sphincter
Non-relaxing smooth muscle sphincter
Proçcer management of urinary symptoms are essential for functional recovery a
rehabilitation of neurologically disabled clients. The mode of treatment depends on site
of the lesion and pathophysiology of bladder dysfunction (Table 2). The nature of
bladder symptoms may change with the course of the primary neurological problem.
The nature and severity vary from patient to patient, from time to time. Hence the
urological diagnosis and treatment need to be revised periodically. Associated cognitive
and behavioural problems, sensory loss, motor disabilities spasticity and drugs may
affect the urinary functions. The neuro-urological evaluation and management is a complex
and dynamic process.
Urinary incontinence
Incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine which is a social or hygienic problem
and is objectively demonstrable37. This can be due to cognitive and behavioural problem,
defective communication, uninhibited detrusor contractions, and defective sphincter
closure. Incontinence secondary to cognitive and behavioural disturbances can be
managed with scheduled voiding, bladder drill and behavioural therapy. Bladder drill is
a regime of timed voiding during which the subject is taken to toilet or given a commode.
Patient is given positive reinforcement if he is dry for a fixed period, uses commode
without prompting or empties the bladder with reminders. The rewards are withheld if
soiled. External collecting devices like condom can be used for patients who do not
respond. Patients with defective communication can be helped with timed scheduled
voiding, timed reminders and communicationaids.
Detrusor instability
International continence society has defined detrusor instability as a condition in which
the detrusor is objectively shown to contract either spontaneously or on provocation
during bladder filling while subject is attempting to inhibit micturition37. This is seen in
patients with lesions above sacral spinal segments. The symptoms include urgency,
frequency, urge incontinence and nocturnal enuresis. The diagnosis is based on
demonstration of uninhibited detrusor contractions during Cystometry. Mild detrusor
instability may be managed with fluid regulation, avoidance of alcohol and caffeine and
behavioural therapy. Further options are pharmacotherapy, maximal electrical stimulation,
acupuncture, intravesical capsaicin and surgery.
Table 2 Management of neurogenic voiding dysfunction
Site of the lesion
Spinal cord
Type of dysfunction
Communication problems
Lack of concern
Timed voiding
Behavioural therapy
Loss of voluntary control
Timed voiding
Reflex emptying
Anticholinergic agents,
Muscierelaxants, Calcium
channel blockers.
Electrical stimulation
Bio feedback Acupuncture
Capsaicin Surgery
Non relaxing smooth muscle
Alpha adrenergic blockers:
Prazosin, Aifuzosin CIC
Non relaxing striated
Detrusdr areflexia
Bethanecol, Carbachol
Credè'smaneuver CIC
Incompetence of sphincters
Smooth mUscle
Botulinum toxin,
External sphincterotomy,
Autonomic nervous
system Cauda equina
Peripheral nerves
Timed voiding
Communication aids
Kegel's exercise
Alpha agonists: Ephedrin,
and Psuedoephedrin
Local injection with Teflon
Artificial sphincters
Incontinence appliances
Poor Detrusor contractions
CIC-Clean intermittent catheterisation.
Crede's manoeuvre CIC
Pharmacotherapy The hyperactivity of detrusor can be managed with anticholinergic
drugs, smooth muscle relaxants, calcium channel blockers, prostaglandin inhibitors,
potassium channel openers and beta adrenergic agonist. Anticholinergic drugs block
bladder contractions induced by parasympathetic neurons. They do not increase the
outlet resistance. A significant proportion of the bladder contractions are mediated by
non cholinergic and non adrenergic neurotransmitters. Hence the anticholinergic drugs
cause only partial inhibition of bladder contractions38. Commonly used anticholinergic
drugs include propantheline, glycopyrolate, atropine, isopropamide and hyoscine. All
of them block muscarinic receptors. Side effects of thesedrugs includedryness of
mouth, blurring of vision, tachycardia, drowsiness and constipation. Musculotropic
smooth muscle relaxants are the drugs that act directly on smooth muscles andcause
relaxation. Oxybutinin is a smooth muscle relaxant with additional anticholinergicactivity.
The oral dose is 2.5 to 5 mg every 8th hourly. Intravesical instillation ofOxybutinin is
also useful in the treatment of detrusor hyperreflexia. Flavoate isa smooth muscle
relaxant with local analgesic action. It reduces detrusor instability at the doses of 100to
200mg 8th hourly. Calcium channel blockers also inhibit smooth muscle contractions.
Terodiline a calcium channel blocker with anticholinergic activity was widely used
previously in the treatment of detrusor hyperreflexia. This drug was withdrawn from
market folloving repots of adverse cardiac side effects. Bodner etal reported that
verapamil augmen.ts the muscle relaxant properties of oxybutinin.
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCA), especially imipramine is useful in the treatment of
detrusor instability. It also increases the outlet resistance. The TCAs have a central as
well as peripheral anticholinergic activity.-'They also block the reuptake of noradenaline
and serotonin. The imipramine has a direct smooth muscle relaxant effecton the detrusor.
Doxepine, a TCA with muscle relaxant properties was also used to treat detrusor
instability 38• The side effects of TCA are mainly due to the systemic anticholinergic
activity. Skin rashes, hepatic dysfunc eons, obstructive jaundice and agranulocytosis
have been reported rarely. They can also produce fatigue, tremors,parkinsonian features,
psychosis, postural hypotension and sedation. Al] TCA have a direct myocardial
depressant action. Abrupt discontinuation can cause abdominal distension,nausea,
vomiting, headache, lethargy and irritability. Hence all TCAs should be tapered and
stopped. They are contraindicated in patients already on monoamine oxidase inhibitors38.
Other drugs tried in the treatment of detrusor instability include potassium channel
openers, prostaglandin inhibitors and antidiuretic hormone. Potassium efflux causes
hyperpolarisation of the smooth muscle membranes and prevents the contractions.
Prostaglandins mediate part of noncholinergic nonadrenergic contraction. Indomethacin,
50 to 200mg may reduce the bladder hyperactivity40. 1 -desaminocystine 8-D-arginine
vasopressin (DDAVP) has been used for symptomatic relief of nocturnal enuresis.
The drug administered as an intranasal spray suppress the urine production for 7 to 10
Electrical stimulation: Electrical stimulation may activate various inhibitory reflexes
and facilitate continence. The sites stimulated include rectum, vagina, pelvic floor, common
peroneal nerve and posterior tibial nerve. Several studies have demonstrated detrusor
inhibition after repetitive electrical stimulation at these sites. Even persistent remissions
of symptoms have been reported. Draw backs include unpleasant sensation during
stimulation, poor acceptability, mucosal irritation, lack of standard equipment and lack
of controlled studies41.
Biofeedback: The detrusor contractions are converted into auditory and visual signals.
The client is made aware of detrusor contractions through these signals and taught to
control them. This method is very time-consuming and relapse rates are high 42•
Acupuncture: This traditional Chinese method of treatment has been tried in reducing
the detrusor hyperactivity. The stimulation of acupuncture sites results in release of
endogenous opiods. These opiods inhibit detrusor contractions. This method has been
found to be useful in attaining bladder control following Spinal cord injuries43.
Intravesical Capsaicin: Intravesical instillation of capsaicin has been tried in the treatment
of detrusor instability. They act on C fibres containing substance P and inactivate them.
As these C fibres are not involved in normal micturition reflex, normal detrusor'
contractility will be maintained. Wairt etal recently confirmed the efficacy of capsaicin
instillation in a double blind controlled trial.
Surgical interventions: Only affective surgical intervention for detrusor instability is
augmentation cystoplasty. Bladder is bisected in the coronal plane. A segment of
terminal ileum is used to increase the capacity. The surgical option should be considered
only after exhausting all attempts at conservative management'5.
Incompetence of the urethral sphincters.
Genuine stress incontinence (GSI )is the most áommon cause of urinary incontinence
women. The GSI is the urinary leakage on raising intraabdominal pressure in the absence
of detrusor contraction. Diagnosis is made with history, clinical examination and
videocystourethrography. The GSI can be classified into two groups: Hyper mobility of
the urethra and intrinsic sphincter deficiency. The single Fibre EMG of pubococcygeus
muscle had showed significant denervation of pelvic floor muscle'. Treatments of GSI
include pelvic floor exercises, vaginal cones, electrical stimulation, drugs and surgery.
Vaginal cones are a cheap, effective and acceptable method of treating GSI.
Electrostimulation of pelvic floor also helps in the treatment. The drugs used in the
patients with GSI include alpha adrenergic agonist and estrogens.
Alpha adrenergic agonist: Bladder neck and proximal urethra have alpha adreno
receptors which on stimulation cause smooth muscle contraction. Various alpha adrenergic
stimulants increase the maximum urethral pressure and urethral closure pressure. Side
effects include hyper tension, anxiety, insomnia, headache, tremors, weakness, palpitation,
cardiac dysrrhythmias and respiratory difficulties. Ephedrine 25 -50 mg 6th hourly
release noradrenaline and directly stimulate the urethra. Psuedoephedrine and
phenyipropanolamine also have similar action. Beta adrenergic antagonist potentiate
alpha receptors and increase urethral pressure. Side effects include cardiac failure and
Estrogens. The urethra and trigone are embryonically related to uterus. Estrogenic
hormones have significant effect on lower urinary tract. They increase the sensitivity of
urethra to alpha adrenergic stimulation. Estrogens are useful in the treatment of
post menopausal stress incontinence. They have an addictive effect when combined
with alpha adrenergic stimulants. The proposed mechanism of action of estrogens
include changes in autonomic innervation, increase in alpha receptor content, increase
in metabolism of smooth muscle, changes in estrogen binding sites, effect on non muscular
elements of urethral wall and better mucosal seal mechanism38.
Injectable agents: Various substances like Teflon and glutaraldehyde cross linked
with bovine collagen can be injected around bladder neck to produce an artificial increase
in outlet resistance45.
Artificial sphincter. Artificial sphincter is a fluid filled cuff placed around the bladder
neck. The cuff is connected to a deflation device. On activating this device, the fluid
from the cuff is pumped into a reservoir. This reduces the out let pressure and facilitates
micturition. After two - three minutes fluid gets automatically pumped back in the cuff.
This device is expensive and is associated with various complications like infection and
erosion into the urethra. This technique should be reserved for those failed to respond
to all other interventions 42•
Surgical treatment: Surgery aims to elevate the bladder neck and proximal urethra
into an intra abdominal position. The various operations described include anterior
colporrhaphy, endoscopic bladder neck suspension, Burch's colpo suspension and
urethral sling procedure. Hypermobility of urethra can be corrected by bladder neck
suspension. Patients with intractable incontinence will need diversion, procedures like
uretrosigmoidostomy, urethral closure with permanent suprapubic catheterisation, ileal
conduit and continent urinary diversion procedures45.
Incontinence appliances: Despite best treatment several patients remain in continent.
They require incontinence appliances like pants, pads and collecting devices. The need
for these appliances depends on severity of incontinence, mobility and manual dexterity
of the patient, care giver and life style and sexual activity of the client47. The incontinence
pants should be well fitting, not too tight and should not damage the skin. Absorbent
body-worn, pads are available in different sizes and shapes. Super absorbers are
polymers capable of absorbing 50 times their own weight of urine under some degree
of pressure. Absorbent rolls are useful only for patients with light incontinence. Pads
with protective plastic backing and can be worn with normal underwear are available.
They also have self adhesive straps to hold in place. Pouch pads are designed for use
with marsupial pants. Their size depends on the pant pouch and the degree of
incontinence. Re-usable washable polyester pads have a water proof backing. They
can be worn with normal undergarments. All-in-one pants can be worn without additional
pants. They have easy side fastenings that can be worn by disabled clients. Bed
protectors are water proof sheets that can be kept below the incontinent patients and
can be changed easily. Badly creased or placed bed protector can result in pressure
Penile sheaths and condom catheter that can be secured around thç shaft of the penis
are preferable to an indwelling catheter. They are non-invasive, do not carry risk of
infection and safe. The collecting bags can be fastened around legs of mobile patients
and to bed. Urine collection devices are not suitable for female anatomy. Currently
female urinary pouches that can be attached to vulva and drain into a collection bag are
available. But leaking of the seal and skin irritation are significant problems.
Urinary retention
Urinary retention can occur due to poor contractions of detrusor muscle or failure of
the sphincters to relax. The goals of management of urinary retention are prevention of
renal failure, avoidance of infection, continence, independence and Intravesical pressure
of less than 20 cm of water. In Crede's manoeuvre gentle pressure is applied over
abdominal wall and urine is expressed out of the bladder. This procedure is useful
especially in patients with atonic bladder and dennervated sphincters. It is not useful in
patients with abnormal sphincter EMG, as the increase intraabdominal pressure may
result in excessive firing. This may cause increase in intravesical pressure, stretching
and damage to bladder wall.
Several patients with detrusor contractions and coordinated sphincters can be trained
to use reflex bladder contractions for voiding. The micturition reflex can be elicited by
washing hands in running water, pulling supra pubic hair and stroking the inner aspects
of the thighs. Detrusor, sphincter dyssynergia interferes with effective reflex voiding.
The reflex may occur spontaneously resulting in incontinence. A urodynamic study is
essential before attempting reflex voiding. It is important to monitor upper urinary tract
regularly in these patients since high intravesical pressures can damage the kidneys.
Phannacotherapy: Underactivity of detrusor muscle can lead to urinary retention,
over distension and over flow incontinence. Drugs used in the treatment of urinary
retention include agents to increase detrusor contractions, relax the urethral sphincters.
Cholinergic drugs like bethanechol and carbachol may be useful to elicit detrusor
contractions. Anticholineesterase distigmine bromide was also used for this purpose.
The contractions of the internal urethral sphincters are produced by alpha adreno
receptors in the bladder neck. Alpha 1 adrenergic blocking agents relax the smooth
muscles and decrease the outlet resistance. Alpha blockers used for thispurpose
include phentolamine, phenoxbybenzamine, prazosin, terazosin, alfuzosin, nicergoline,
thymoxamine 48,49,59 The non-relaxing, striated external sphincter can also lead to
retention. Anti spasticity medications like diazepam and baclofen are used to reduce
the muscle tone. Injection of botulinum toxin is a new option available for these patients.
It produces a non surgical reversible relaxation of the external sphincter. It is suited for
patients who cannot perform intermittent cathetensation, and can wear external collecting
Clean intermittent catheterization: This was popularised by Sir Ludwig Guttman
during world war H52. It is a safe, effective and preferred alternative to long term
indwelling catheterisation. It is the best option for patients with hyporeflexic detrusor
and urinary retention. In subjects with detrusor hyperrflexia with sphincter dyssynergia,
additional anticholinergic medications may be needed to reduce the detrusor contractions.
The patients should be taught to maintain the bladder volume around 300ml. Initially
sterile techniques were advised for intermittent catheterisation. Subsequent studies
have shown that clean intermittent technique is as safe as the sterile techniques for home
setting. In hospital setting the role of sterile catheterisation compared to clean
catheterisation is still controversial . Upper urinary tract function is well maintained in
these patients . However the procedure is more labour intensive and time consuming
than continuous indwelling catheter.
Continuous catheterisation: This was the only solution for urinary retention in the.
past. The indwelling catheter is always associated with bacteriuria. The complications
of the continuous catheter include cystitis, urethritis, prostatitis, abscess, fistulae, strictures,
epididymoorchitis and erosion of the urethra. Reflex bladder contractions can lead to
significant pericatheter leak and intractable incontinence. This procedure is best reserved
for dealing with complications in the short term. The aim should be to remove the
catheter at the earliest. In patients with indwelling catheter good catheter care including
regular changing of the catheter and collecting devices is essential for prevention of
complications. Regular irrigation may reduce the accumulation of debris and blocking
of catheters
Suprapubic catheterization: This procedure avoids some problems with long term
urethral catheter. It is of value in patients with severely damaged urethra secondary to
infection or instrumentation or in women with dilated urethra. In some patients urethra
needs to be surgically closed to regain continence.
External sphincterotornv: This procedure reduces the resistance of the external urethral
sphincter. It is recommended for patients with intractable detrusor sphincter dyssynergia.
It also protects upper urinary tract from increased pressure. But it produces incontinence
requiring an external collecting device. About a third of the patients also complains of
Sacral anterior root stimulation:. Electrical stimulation of sacral anterior roots is an
effective method of treating patients with supra sacral spinal cord injury. This is usually
combined with division of the posterior sacral roots. This sacral deafferentation produces
a large, areflexic bladder capable of storing large volumes of urine at a low pressure.
Thus it protects the upper tracts, prevents incontinence and abolishes autonomic
dysreflexia triggered by bladder. The electrical stimulationof sacral anterior roots
produces contraction of detrusor and urethral sphincter. The problem is due to
simultaneous sphincter contraction can be avoided by giving stimulation and brief pulses.
Detrusor smooth muscle take a long time to relax. During the interval between two
pulses the sphincters relax but detrusor contractions will bemaintained. Thus bladder
is capable of emptying in bursts. Urinary infection and incontinence are significantly
reduced in subjects using this device. There is no need for continuously carrying a
collecting device. The upper urinary tract damage is also rare. No long termside
effects have been reported56.
The aims of management of patients suffering from neurogenic bladder are facilitation
of adequate storage of urine, prevention of incontinence and over distension and
protection of kidneys and urinary tract from complications. The knowledge of neurophysiology of continence has increased tremendously during recent years. Rapid advances
have been made in the investigations and treatment of neuro-urological disorders. Now
it is possible to elucidate the pathophysiology of voiding dysfunction in most of patients
with neurogenic bladder. This has made possible proper management of these problems.
Currently care of these patients tended to be fragmented between neurologists, urologist
and gynaecologists. An integrated multi-disciplinary approach is required for the practical
management of this common problem.
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Guerit JM, Opsomer RJ. Bit mapped imaging of SSEP after stimulation of posterior tibial
nerves and dorsal nerve of penis/clitoris. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol 1991;
Delterne PF, Thiry AJ. Urinary bladder cortical evoked response in man: suitable stimulation
techniques. BrJUrol 1989; 64:381.
Hansen MV, Ertekin C, Larsson L-E. Cerebral evoked potentials after stimulation of posterior
urethra in man. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol 1990; 77:52.
Kiff ES, Swash M. Normal proximal and delayed distal conduction in pudendal nerves of
Patient with idiopathic ( neurogenic ) faecal incontinence. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry
1987; 47: 820.
Opsomer RJ, Caramia MD, Zarola F, Pesce F, Rossini PM. Neurophysiological evaluation
of central-peripheral sensory and motor pudendal fibres. Electroencephalogr Clin
Neurophysiol 1989; 74:260.
Robinson LQ, Woodcock JP, Stephenson TP. Results of investigation of impotence in
patients with overt or probable neuropathy. Br J Urol 1987; 60:583.
Fowler CJ, Ali Z, Kirby RS, Pryor JP. The value of testing for unmyelinated fibre, sensory
neuropathy in diabetic impotence. BrJUrol 1988; 61:63.
Arunodaya GR, Taly AB. Sympathetic skin response: a decade later. J Neurol.Sci 1995;
Ertekin C, Ertekin S, Mutlu S. Almis A, Akcam A. Skin potentials recorded from extremities
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Wein AJ. Practical uropharmacology. Urologic Clinics of North America 1991; 18:269.
Bodner DR, Lindan R, Leffler E, Resnick MI. The effect of verapamil on the treatment of
detrusor hyperreflexia in spinal cord injured population. Paraplegia 1989; 27:364.
Johns A. The effect of indomethacin and substance P on guinea pig urinary bladder. Life
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Pain relief in Neurorehabilitation
U. Nandakumaran Nair
Among the vital concerns of modern medicine today is its tryst with pain experience.
Physicians interested in pain relief would at once confess how frustrating it is to manage
a chronic pain patient, and how challenging it is to be in a close encounter with pain
Pain is considered to be a psychic orientation towards stimuli that endangers its integrity
or causes damage to an organism. Seen this way, pain is an important acquisition to
animal evolution. Painful sensations often correlate very well to pathological processes
and could forerun external signs of diseases. As an emotional experience pain is
depressing and distressing serving as stimulus for various defence behaviour strategies.
Pain sensations are also subject to higher mental functions related to cortical activity
and are influenced by orientations, beliefs, and culture. Thus pain is entirely a
conceptualized subjective phenomenon where memories of experience and experiences
themselves do play apart. The nearest definition has come from the Taxonomy Committee
of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP)'. Accordingly pain is "an
unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue
damage, or described in terms of such damage." Further understanding is through a
five-axis taxonomy that can describe any patient's pain syndrome. These contributions
no doubt help in a large way clinical and epidemiological studies and research.
Two factors can confound a pain situation: the potentials to become intractable and
chronic. In either event, disability ensues, and can lead to handicap. Should these occur,
the patient might suffer disabilities and handicap, similar to one affected by stroke or
cord trauma. For optimal functional restoration, any policy on management makes
rehabilitation not only desirable, but essential as well. In the context of health experience,
a disability is any lack or restriction (resulting from impairment) of ability to perform an
activity in the manner or within the range considerednormal for a human being 2•
and hence
Targeting disability is one effective means of ensuring better pain relief
rehabilitation. Vasudevan suggests the following scheme for disability evaluation in these
causation of injury and relationship of injury to impairment
impaimient - anatomical, physiological and psychological
functional limitation imposed by impairment
relationship of functional limitation to work and recreational activity
suggestions for future treatment and rehabilitation, and
permanency of impairment and statement regardingwhether impairment is expected
to last twelve months or more
This understanding assumes significance in neurorehabiitation as more than one unrelated
impairment can contribute to the occurrence of the chronic pain state. Many physicians
spend time searching for the elusive tissue specific pathology as a cause for their patient's
condition, indifferent to the foundations laid by IASP and to our knowledge about the
impairment - pain disability continuum.
Fortunately the realization that a physical illness need not be the sole perpetrating factor
in pain is getting currency. Many physicians now accept the importance of physical,
behavioural and subjective testing as well as monitoring to be the best possible form of
evaluation. Reading strongly recommends assessment of pain as a prerequisite to pain
management strategies". Numerous measuring scales are now availablefor use at the
office level; a discussion of those methods is beyond the scope of this chapter. However
mention has to be made of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory which still
offers an excellent method for a proper pain evaluation . It carries 566 questions with
true or lalse responses and is extremely useful as a screening tool for identifying
depression, hypochondriasis, or a hysterical personality. However, it is not useful in
making an opinion on the extent of organic involvement in an individual's pain syndrome
nor is it sensitive enough to be put to prognostic and predictive use. In little children,
scorin' systems based on observation of factors like expression, posture, vocalisation
do exist as in Infant Pain Behaviour Rating Scale (IPBRS), and in older children,
Procedural Behaviour Rating Scale - revised (PBRS - r) and Children's Hospital of
Eastern Ontario Pain Scale (CHEOPS). Probably, the Visual Analogue Scale (VSA)
is simple as well as effective6.
Pain in Peripheral Nervous System
Although theoretically motor, sensory, or autonomic features can occur with any
peripheral neuropathy, pain, as a sensory symptom is not its common association. When
it is present, along with specific treatment directed to the underlying pathology pain
control measures will be quite appropriate. Most patients with painful neuropathy have
distal sensory abnormalities that can be attributed to small myelinated and unmyelinated
fibres. These fibres have increased impulse generation. Reportedly there is myelinated
fibre reduction to a substantial degree in painful diabetic neuropathy and the relatively
normal content of unmyelinated fibres is thought to represent recovery from previous
injury. This presumed state of hyperexcitability induces axonal membrane changes related
to ionic conduction and is seen in toxic, metabolic or compressive states. Substance P
transit is blocked around sites of peripheral compression leading to consequential
segmental vasoconstriction. Among the causes of painful peripheral neuropathy diabetes
heads the list.
Neuromuscular involvement can occur during the course of FIIV disease; among persons
with AIDS (PWA), such an incidence is about 15%. Various presentations are possible
and six identified subtypes are the following: (i) acute Guillain -Bane syndrome (ii)
distal axonopathy (iii) progressive inflammatory polyradiculopathy (iv) chronic
inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (v) mononeuritis multiplex and (vi)
ganglioneuronitis 7.8.9 Symptoms range from paraesthesia and tingling to dysesthesias,
lancinating pains, myalgia and cramps. Other sensory and autonomic disturbances do
exist along with these syndromes but from the point of view of pain the important
clinical situation is the distal axonopathy presumably owing to toxic, nutritional or
metabolic reasons, characterized by distal axonal degeneration of primary sensory
neurons of the lumbosacral dorsal root ganglia. The condition is very painful.
Among the less common varieties of painful neuropathies are those associated with
abnormal proteins. They have several systemic symptoms as their concomitants and
can be diagnosed by the presence of specific abnormalities in serum or urinary protein.
cryoglobulinaemia, macroglobulinaemia, multiple myeloma, and amyloidosis are
examples. Neoplasms also produce pain and other sensory disturbances. A recent
report on the stiff leg syndrome suggests apossible neurogenic involvement
Apart from the specific treatment directed to the illness, adjuvant management for
controlling pain will draw favourable response. Since any of these conditions can produce
a chronic pain state with its attendant disablement efforts at pain management is always
In the coming years the Indian physician interested in neurorehabilitation is likely to
come across persons with post polio residual paresis who complain of various renewed
and late onset disabilities. Since India has launched polio eradication strategies" one
would see less and less of poliomyelitis, as more states enter the mopping up phase.
Singularly enough, one would be confronted with its late complications, a condition
popularly known as post polio syndrome. Though its pathophysiological features are
not settled at this time single fibre electmmyographic results are indicative ofa progressive
neuromuscular transmission dysfunction I2,I3.I4 About 70% of patients report pain as a
major distressing feature, manifesting as either arthralgia or myalgia in partially affected
regions, in the shoulders of a crutch ambulator, or a normal contralateral knee. Any
pain causing functional problems in a residual polio patient accompanied by fatigue
should alert one to that possibility'5 It also appears that the post polio patient is at a
higher risk of compressive neuropathy 16 Once properly diagnosed the late effects
have a benign course and are generally amenable to judiciously planned rest, exercises,
orthotic correction, and lifestyle modifications alongside transcutaneous electrical nerve
stimulation (TENS), heat, and symptomatic analgesics. The proposed therapy with
substances acting on dopaminergic receptors like bromocriptine needs further validation.
Central Pain
Pain can follow central nervous system lesions, although rarely. Lesions in the spinal
cord account for most of the CNS pain. Apart from cases where definitive surgical
lesions are the source of pain, results of treatment are mostly frustrating. Among the
CNS pains arising from the brain, thalamic pain is the prototype. Almost any thalamic
lesion can produce pain though infarctions are believed to be the major cause. It is now
known that lesions at sites other than thalamus also result in thalamic like pain.
Anticonvulsants, barbiturates, and tricyclic antidepressants singly or in combination give
good results. But treatment on patients in whom untoward effects precede therapeutically
beneficial result remains unsatisfactory.
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
The general opinion that reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) is eminently curable or is
satisfactorily manageable remains too optimistic. RSD is a symptom complex that has
led to difficulties in definition and classification, and more importantly, different clinicians
follow different inclusion criteria. Payne considers causalgia to be different from RSD in
its clinical profile The taxonomy committee of the IASP has proposed change o
nomenclature of RSD and causalgia to Complex Regional Pain Syndromes I an
respectively. Causalgia results from trauma to the proximal region of a nerve trunk due
to missile or cut injuries and bears no quantifiable relation with surrounding soft tissue
damage. Causalgic response commences as early as several hours after the trauma
producing most spectacular variations in pain profile ranging from a persistent moderate
or severe pain to sudden bursts of acute, intense, and deep pain. Roberts 18 in his
brilliant concept paper recounts the sequence of events leading to RSD and causalgia.
Accordingly the spontaneous, high and unchecked activity levels in the multi-receptive
neurons produce pain sensations which are anyhow sensitized by various nociceptor
responses. While in causalgia, signs and symptoms fall mostly under the category
Sympathetically Maintained Pain (SMP), in RSD at least some of the symptom complex
are Sympathetically Independent Pain (SIP). Three stages can be often made out in
RSD designated as the inflammatory, dystrophic and atrophic stages with distinct
prognostic tags attached to each. Pain, tenderness, temperature changes and swelling
of an extremity point to RSD, and presence of intolerance to sudden temperature changes
favours the diagnosis. At other times diagnosis may not be easy, when some of these
features are absent and hence a diagnostic criteria is sought
From the treatment point of view, it is worthwhile making a distinction between causalgia
and RSD, due to a possible frustrating outcome with the former. Sympathectomy has
been a choice procedure for causalgia almost by instinct, but the results are so varied
that some workers find it hopeless and others the contrary. The lack of strict criteria
separating RSD from causalgia might have contributed to some of the successes.
However, a case is made out for a contralateral sympathectomy as well especially
when an ipsilateral procedure had failed. Phenoxybenzamine, which blocks alpha receptors at postsynaptic and alpha -2 at presynaptic levels gave good results in one
study It is also reported that clonazepam offers beneficial results, but the drug tends
to taper off its efficacy in a couple of months and revision of dosage becomes necessary.
RSD on the other hand responds much better to sympathectomy. Many of its symptoms
like dysaesthesias, touch and temperature intolerance: vasomotor changes get controlled
to varying degrees. Calcium channel blockers, corticosteroids, and Bier block have
their role. Amitryptaline, which modulates serotonin activity at nerve terminals, has
useful effects. Exercises, heat and splints maintain the limb in good function, and significant
pain reduction can occur with TENS, and tender spot infiltration.
Phantom Pain
Among the pain caused by deafferentation, phantom pain and postherpetic neuralgia
are the most important. Phantom pain can be of any quality intensity and duration. It
appears abruptly and passes off after a while; at other times it is persistentand disturbs
the individual all through the day. Why it occurs in some and not in others, why it is not
seen in the congenitally deficient limb or in little children are matters of speculation. The
central theories stress on the effects of tissue destruction on the higher centres. Melzack
and Loeser propose a pattern generating mechanism for persistent deafferentation pain20.
With the reticular activating system's (RAS) declining inhibitoiy contn)l, the somatosensoly
projection areas develop self sustaining neural activity at multiple levels. Other theories
focus on thalamic, subthalamic or even cortical involvement. Peripheral theories
concentrate more on the spontaneous activity going on at the site of severance of the
peripheral nerves, on the reverberatory circuits that are built up and on the possible
misinterpretation by the brain on the origin of these inputs. There are other postulations
explaining the syndrome on a psychological basis.
It is felt that a good preoperative preparation of the patient and subsequent management
of his responses to loss of limb can help control phantom pain. Education of the patient
on the impact of his loss and on the possible coping up strategies including prosthetic
fitment will be helpful. Surgery for excision of neuroma or a revision is not likely to be of
help. Regular analgesics might help, if NSAID is not useful, narcotic analgesic should
not be with held. Quite often patients do respond to alternative drugs like
carbamazepine, tricyclic anti depressants, propranalol, anticonvulsants, and even
baclofen. Other modalities include TENS, local anaesthetics, nerve blocks and
combination of deep brain stimulation and TENS. Acupuncture might be useful, These
measures have been successful in half to two thirds of cases. Judiciously prescribed
physical therapy is helpful, to which ultrasound therapy, massage, heat and ice application
can be safely added to produce optimum results.
Muscle Pains
Though existence of tender nodules in skeletal muscles was known to produce pain, it
was with the publication of the 'Trigger Point Manual' by Travel] and Simons in 1983,
that the subject attracted the attention it richly deserved. The 'Manual' continues even
today as the best guide to the discerning clinician interested in pain medicine. It recognizes
the fact that muscle can be the seat of intense, disabling pain lasting over a long period.
This rather elusive type of pain is being called Myofascial Pain Dysfunction Syndrome
(MPDS). It affects men, women, and children alike and spares practically no muscle.
A tender nodule that has a specific pattern of referred pain characterizes the involved
muscle; thus diagnosis is suggested by the regional distribution of pain. There are other
clinical features like, restriction of range of motion and local twitch response. Sensitization
of local innervating fibres of the group ifi and IV afferents are implicated in the formation
of the tender nodule or band. This band is popularly called a trigger point (TP). Many
inquiries have been made into the exact pathology of a TP. The tender muscles of non-
articular rheumatism show electronmicroscopic evidence of 'moth eaten' I -bands,
suggesting degeneration of actin due to metabolic distress. In certain situations apart
from the above finding, ragged red fibres were present as also fat accumulation known
by the term 'fat dusting' over the affected muscles2' ,22 These and other findings were
interpreted as evidence of impaired perfusion and hypoxia.
The great clinical significance of MPDS stems from the following:
1 It is a treatable condition
2 It mimics other potentially dangerous conditions
3 When multiple, it gives clue to other diagnostic differentials.
A few examples are listed below 23
I Trapezius muscle is afovourite location of the 'FR When it occurs in the upperfibres,pain
is felt on the posterolateral aspect of neck, and in the temporal region. These may be
mistaken as a unilateral headache.
2 Masseer muscle pain refers to corresponding side of face ,upper and lower molars
and over eyebrows.
3 Infraspinatus muscle pain is refered to shoulder and anterolateral upper arm, forearm
and hand.
Gluteus muscles are another common location for 'FR The maximus muscle lesion refers
pain mainly over the sacrum and inferior aspect of the buttock. The TP in the medius
scatters vague pain over the back of thigh with particularly intense pain over sacrum
and iliac crest. Referral pattern for the minimus is towards lateral side of thigh and the
buttock if the TP is placed anteriorly in the muscle and to the lower limb on the posterior
side if the TP is so placed. This mimics sciatica.
Several management policies can be adopted. Stretch and spray technique involves
keeping the muscle in a stretched position, while the subject is kept comfortable, and a
steady stream of vapocoolant spray is administered in sweeps in the recommended
directions. TP is also amenable to injections of local anaesthetic, steroid, or saline.
Holding the TP between fingers, and infiltrating the entire area are important to the
success of the procedure. Other techniques like ultrasound therapy, interferential therapy,
TENS, diadynamic current, etc may be successful.
While limited TP disease has strong tendency to respond to specific treatment, when
the number is large the condition shows no such inclination. Generalised muscle disease
is multifactorial in onset and perpetration: these factors are to be removed for optimum
results. Literature suggests that many chronic infections, including giardiasis, and
amoebiasis can be a source of nagging MPDS. Similarly, any nutritional inadequacy,
impaired glucose metabolism, marginal hypothyroidism and certain states of
hypervitaminoses can lead to persistence of MPDS.
Closely related to MPDS are two other conditions, viz., fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue
syndrome. The tenth edition of I CD has listed fibromyalgia as a separate entity and
diagnostic criteria have been drawn up by the American College of Rheumatology in
1990 24• A major requirement for diagnosis is the finding of tenderness at specific
points of the body and regions. It may be associated with systemic concomitants such
as sleep disorder, a point where chronic fatigue syndrome tends to overlap. Though the
oft-described spasm of fibromyalgic muscles has not been demonstrated kinesiologically
or electromyographically, there is increasing evidence pointing to an organic basis for it.
Ig G deposition below epidermis and alteration in collagen have been noticed 25•
Discrepancies in arousal noticed in fibromyalgic persons are thought to cause inefficiency
in aerobic activity making affected muscles susceptible to microtrauma. Unfortunately
very little can be done to help the victims of these conditions at the present time.
Microtrauma sustained over a period can lead to pain related disability. Classically
many conditions are believed to be the consequence of chronic minor repetitive injury
eg. carpal tunnel syndrome in typists and pianists. Guyon's type compressive neuropathy
in persons manipulating the mouse of a computer, spondylolysis in young adults engaged
in physical work or athletics, scapular pain in children having to carry heavy school
bags. There are several other less popular types of microtrauma related diseases as
multiple repetitions of an ordinary movement, or from having to work in a maladapting
workplace. Housewives complaining of right-sided persistent rotator cuff pain in shoulder,
scapular pains in administrative personnel using uncomfortable but standard furniture,
cervicobrachialgia over the dominant side of dental surgeons, are examples. The author
and PGC Nair had a series of persons employed on a casual basis as prawn peelers
who had to squat over long periods of time during their work reporting with diffuse pain
and discomfort on the back and sides of legs (unpublished data). Some cases of chronic
repetitive trauma can indeed produce features of RSD and sympathetically maintained
pain, which does not as a rule respond to simple sympathetic oc de'7 Its significance
is not fully understood. The only way to diagnose these problems is to have a high index
of suspicion and to extract a detailed occupational history. Lifestyle modification,
workplace adaptation, splints, physical therapy and supportive analgesics or adjuvant
medication are of immense help.
Some patients with dysthymia and alexithymia have pain disease 26• Both lCD 10 and
DSM-IV classify dysthymia as mood disorder associated with somatic features but at
an intensity that does not attract a diagnosis of hypomania or depressive episode. The
somatic preoccupation of a dysthymic patient can be pain, when it is so it is sustained,
and has a prolonged course. Incidence is believed to be 2.2% for males and 4.2% for
females, but the frequency of pain disorder within the group is not accurately known.
The patient with alexithymia has difficulty to describe and express feelings, confuses
emotional states with bodily sensations. In the context of pain disorder, these patients
have problem in accepting their emotional difficulties and consider organic pathology
behind all their symptoms. Surely a multi-pronged management would be essential in
these categories of patients.
In order that a proper evaluation is made, pain patients ought to receive well- planned
and conceived set of investigations. An account of investigative methods and their
importance can be had from other sources. One investigation that showed promise two
decades ago but lost popularity since then is thermography. Of late it is being increasingly
recognized as a useful tool for evaluating autonomic system disorders. With modern
infrared telithermography system equipment smaller areas of the body can be studied
with better accuracy. No doubt the system demands experience in interpretation, but in
radiculopathy 27, RSD, fibromyalgia, MPDS, and low backache, thermography offers
good results. It is also the author's experience that thermographic studies correlate
very well with per-operative findings of intervertebral disc prolapse (IVDP). The
attempts to use it to diagnose pain, however has to be deprecated. It probably has no
role in settling disputes of compensation claim within a courtroom. We still have to learn
much more about autonomic system to be able to read what the thermography pictures
appear to say especially as its specificity is not yet established.
Therapeutic Options
Various treatment options are available to the physician within a neuro-rehabilitation
setting. The plethora of techniques proves that no single measure has undisputed track
record, this puts a great responsibility on the physician to choose from the different
modalities at his disposal.
Spinal epidural injections have been praised and criticized. There are important studies
that suggest good results with epidural steroids if patient selection is appropriate. Benzon
reports that in IVDP with root involvement, it is therapeutic. It is useful in annulus tear
and sometimes in chronic degenerative pain. Other backaches might not respond and it
would be a good policy to try out better options. Sympathetic blocks are a popular
choice in any neurorehabilitation facility. Their obvious indications are those conditions
most likely to cause SMP. Of the several procedures in vogue, cervical sympathetic
chain blockade is the prototype, and is indicated in a host of conditions including RSD,
peripheral vascular disease, progressive systemic sclerosis, phantom limb pain, and
malignancy. Responses to the block vary and there is no accurate predictor to aid
patient selection. The procedure is carried out through a posteriorly directed needle a
little over an inch above sternoclavicular junction, depositing a solution of phenol or
alcohol at the level of the C-6 tubercie. Lumbar sympathetic block has rather ambiguous
indications; its analgesic potential is believed to be partial, helping to supplement other
therapies. It should be considered in cancer pain and post-herpetic neuralgia. Other
sympathetic blocking procedures are less often practiced. When spinal apophysial joints
generate pain, facet joint blocks can easily control them. Unfortunately diagnostic
difficulties limit their use. Facet syndromes mimic any other backache that is not
accompanied by typical radicular symptoms. Blocking the facet jOint can be
accomplished by injections or radio frequency lesioning under fluoroscopic control.
Electro analgesia has attracted considerable interest. The survival of several electro
analgesic modalities despite the controversies about their efficacy is indicative of the
confidence they have received from physicians and patients. The most notable among
them TENS, whose neurophysiological basis is extensively discussed in literature
28.29,3O,31 New versions of TENS stress on Burst Frequency probably relying on the
work by Sjolund and Eriksson 32• The burst frequency is 2- Hertz; each lasting for 70
ms., and containing 7 pulses per burst, thus giving an internal frequency of 100Hz. It is
believed to release endorphins at the best levels. There are other conventional modes
of application of TENS that are being followed. One advantage of TENS is its usefulness
as a patient controlled analgesia measure. Since prescription specifications on frequency,
intensity, electrode placement etc, are not standardized, results of therapy do vary.
Cold Laser is another technique that deserves mention. Its nonthermal beneficial results
are believed to be due to its action on mitochondrial membrane, on superoxide scavenging
through improved activity of superoxide transmutase, and probably on increased
serotonin level.
Electromyographic Biofeedback (EMGB) offers a chance to the patient to participate
in his treatment actively by following contraction and relaxation of his muscle groups
and by willing pain reduction strategies. Migraine, low backache, cervicobrachialgia
and MPDS are to different degrees amenable to EMGB. Even Relaxation techniques
can relieve pain through a similar manner, and when combined they appear to complement
each other B,34• The Cognitive - Behaviour Therapy (CBT) approach considers
modification of coping strategies in the pain patient in order to obviate maladaptations
in cognition. Its principles among others include (a) help the patient identify what the
problem is, - not, what it is not, (b) acknowledge the existence of symptoms. (c) Give
relevant information and (d) Collaborate with the patient and do not convert the sessions
into combative ones35.
Transdermal application of analgesics is becoming very practical -from Eutectic Mixture
of Local Anaesthetic (EMLA) to several other potential drug delivery systems. Morphine
reportedly can be given transdermally. Fentanyl, which was successful as a postoperative
patient controlled analgesic, is available in a transdermal delivery system. It is considered
to be the most appropriate drug for this purpose as it carries a molecular weight of less
than 1000, and has good hydrophilicity and lipophilicity 36• Transdermal fentanyl is used
in cancer and postoperative pains. In the light of new information much of the old
models on the role of the spinal cord in central sensitization are being reviewed. The
cord is thought to be a centre having four stimulus processing states where impulses
from the periphery can be qualitatively altered to an extent that what is perceived by the
brain might be quite different from what happens distally. Munglani, Hunt, and Jones37
review this 'black box' model of the cord in their article. The authors throw open
exciting new possibilities in the present and future pain control therapies. Thus, Substance
P and Neurokinin A activation might help and Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide antagonist
be useful in treatment. Use of Calcium antagonist's synergism with opioids in the cord,
intrathecal NSAID and antisense oligonucleotide to c-fos might be realized in future.
There is renewed interest pre-emptive analgesia and its relevance to chronic pain
A great deal of interest has been generated on the placebo effect. Depending on the
conditions under which it is tested placebo incidence can vary between 35% to 85%
It is possible for a patient to experience multiple side effects with placeboes, and an
occasional patient to have negative placebo response, the so called nocebo effect.
With so many treatment options available for certain conditions, it is in fact not possible
to rule out placebo effect anyway. How it works in the individual patient is far from
understood. Claims that it is endorphin mediated or that it is dependent on patient's
expectation remain unconfirmed. There will be left finally many patients with pain in
whom treatment is largely unsuccessful. These persons could be reassured and might
be informed that specific therapy might become available later and that until then with
concerted action and help from family, attending physicians and other professionals a
strategy of behavioural approach to tertiary prevention can be begun.Individuals will
be encouraged to lead as normal a life as possible, and work hardening measures will
be given their logical significance This will ensure productivity at whatever level
possible, and will lead the person through structured programmes to improve efficiency
and quality.
The above account is a general presentation of the pain diseases bearing a relevance to
neurotehabilitation setting. It is not exhaustive, considering that each regional pain situation
has separate modes of approach in management. A physician needs great skill and
empathy to be able to manage the various dimensions of pain spectrum. Application of
active rehabilitation principles acts as positive catalyst to ultimate favourable outcom&°,
as demonstrated in the document released in the U.K. by the Clinical Standard Advisory
Committee on back pain. For a physician interested in pain medicine, rehabilitation is a
guiding principle.
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definitions of pain terms. Pain 1986; (Suppi) 3.
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Vasudevan SV. Perspectives in Relationship between Pain and Disability: Neurologic
Clinics of North America 1989; 7(2): 429.
Reading AE. Testing pain Mechanisms in persons in pain. In: Wall PD,Melzack R (eds).
Textbook of Pain, Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh 1989: 269.
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Dalakas MC. Neuromuscular complications of AIDS, Muscle Nerve 1986; 9:92.
Miller RG, Kiprov DR Parry G, Bredesen DR Peripheral nervous system dysfunction in
acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. In: Rosenblum ML, Levy R, Bredesen D (eds).AIDS
and the nervous system. Raven New York, 1988: 65.
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Cashman NR, Maselli R, Wollimann RU, Roos R, Simon R, Antel JP. Late denervation in
patients with antecedent poliomyelitis. New Eng J Med 1987; 7:317.
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Medicine. Mosby, 1988.
Halstead US, Rossi CD. Post-polio syndrome, Clinical experience with 132 consecutive
patients. Birth Defects 1987; 23:13.
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poliomyelitis patients. Arch Phys Med Rehab 1989; 70:464.
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Roberts W. A hypothesis on the physiological basis for causalgia and related pain. Pain
1986; 24: 297.
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J Melzack R, Loeser JD. Phantom body pain in paraplegics: evidence for a central pattern
generating mechanism for pain. Pain 1978; 4: 195.21 Bengtson A, Henriksson KG, Uarsson
J. Muscle biopsy in primary fibromyalgia. Scand J Rheumatol 1986; 15:1.
Fassbender HG. Nonarticular rheumatism. In: Pathology of rheumatic diseases. SpringerVerlag 1975.
Simons DG. Myofascial pains due to trigger points. In: Goodgold J (ed). Rehabilitation
Medicine. Mosby 1988.
Wolfe F, et al. The American College of Rheumatology 1990 criteria for classification of
fibromyalgia. Arthritis Rheum 1990; 33: 160.
Caro XJ. Immunofluorescent detection of Ig G at the dermal-epidermal junction in patients
with apparent primary fibrositis syndrome. Arthritis Rheum 1984; 27:1174.
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University Press Oxford 1996: 212.
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Neurosurg 1982; 56:386.
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Possibility of use of Functional Electrical stimulation of extremities
in neurorehabilitation
Martin Stefancic
The method of applying electrical stimulation for obtaining functional movements, called
by Liberson et al) as "Functional Electrotherapy" is now known as "Functional Electrical
Stimulation" (FES)2. It is a form of low frequency electrotherapy. FES is electrical
stimulation of muscles, deprived of nervous control, to evoke contractions producing a
functional, useful movement3. It is used in the treatment of patients with disorders of
motor functions, for control and modifications of motor output and movements.
Neuromuscular electrical stimulation can be applied to different organs and parts of the
body 5,6• In this
article the experiences of Ljubljana multidisciplinary research and
rehabilitation engineering team in the use of FES for external control of movements of
paralysed or paretic extremities is described
The structure stimulated by FES of extremities are the so-called motor units, or more
precisely the axons of peripheral nerves. If we apply a series of electrical impulses of
the intensity above the stimulation threshold on the motor nerve at 20-30 Hz frequency,
a smooth tetanic contraction of the corresponding muscles occur. In this fashion it is
possible to obtain desired movements of various muscles and muscle groups with
adequate parameters of electrical impulses and positioning of stimulating electrodes.
FES of extremities is applicable in patients with lesion of upper (central) motor neurons,
and not lower (peripheral)motor neurons. With respect to FES, the most important
difference between the two types of lesions is that in upper motor neuron lesions the
electrical excitability of the lower motor neurons is preserved, while it is reduced or
completely absent if the lower motor neurons themselves have suffered a damage . In
LMN lesions muscle contraction could only be obtained by much stronger electrical
impulses. With few exceptions, no clinically efficient FES systems have so far being
developed for patients with lesions of peripheral nerves. Thus, the use of FES is not
indicated in lower motor neuron lesions, but only in paralysis resulting from upper i.e.
central motor neuron lesions but not in lower motor neuron lesions. The candidates for
FES of extremities are mostly patients with the following clinical pictures:
patients with cerebral lesions (adult patients with hemiplegia or hemiparesis due
to stroke, tumour, injury, inflammation etc cerebral palsy children with hemiparesis,
diparesis, monoparesis etc.)
patients with lesions of the spinal cord (spastic paraplegia or paresis).
Even among these patients with upper motor neuron lesion further selection for FES
treatment is often necessary, considering the efficacy of muscle contractions obtained.
Depending on the types of electrodes three kinds of electrical stimulation are
possible: transcutaneous stimulation with surface electrodes, percutaneous stimulation
with wire electrodes and subcutaneous stimulation with implanted
electrodes. Percutaneous stimulation with wire electrodes is rarely used, except in
experimental conditions. Subcutaneous stimulation with implanted systems and radio
frequency transmission of signals is till now not widely used, mostly because of technical
problems. So, in clinical practice, usually transcutaneous FES is performed with surface
electrodes (metal plate electrodes coated with several layers of gauze, soaked with tap
water or conductive rubber electrodes with conductive jelly). The electrodes are
connected by wires to the stimulator with electronics and commands. In Transcutaneous
FES mono or biphasic impulses of 0.1 - 0.3 ms duration, frequency 20-40 Hz and
intensity individually adjusted to get the suitable response of the muscles are used. FES
can be performed with single channel (one pair of electrodes), or - multichannel
stimulation.( two or more pairs of electrodes).
In selected patients with upper motor neuron lesions (hemiplegia or hemiparesis and
paraplegia or paraparesis) we apply FES treatment with the following aims:
to facilitate voluntary control of paretic muscles
to perform artificial contraction of completely paralysed muscles
to restrengthen weak atrophied muscles
to modify the motor output and movements.
The therapy by FES is usually initiated once the acute phase of the disease or injury has
passed and the state of the patients has been stabilized
FES in patients with cerebral lesions
In spastic hemiplegia there is loss of voluntary control of one half of the body. The
severity vary from a complete hemiplegic state to a slight hemiparesis. The the patients
often observed in rehabilitation centres are those with moderate hemiparesis. In these
cases FES treatment can be used to improve function of affected extremities. In
hemiplegic patients, unable to stand and to walk, FES can be used in sitting or lying
position to facilitate different movements of the upper and lower extremity.
In hemiparetics, the hand opening i.e. unclenching the fist, is often difficult to perform
as spasticity prevails in the flexors of the fingers and the wrist. The FES of the finger and
wrist extensors with careful positioning of the electrodes over the extensor muscle group
on the forearm results in hand opening. This may serve as a functional movement, in
the beginning of grasping an object.
The walking pattern of the hemiparetic patients is quite characteristic. The foot is usually
in an equinovarus position. While walking, the patient's toes and the outer foot margin
rub against the ground. The patient is faced with an imminent danger of sprains and
other injuries at the ankle. In the swing phase of the step a deficient knee flexion is
compensated by a pronounced circumduction of the lower extremity as a whole. The
equinovarus position is usually corrected by passive mechanic braces .The electrical
stimulation of the peroneal nerve behind head of the fibula causes contraction of peroneal
and anterior tibial muscle groups resulting in active correction of dorsiflexion and eversion
of the foot.
One-channel electrical stimulator, facilitating both hand opening and correction of the
equinovarus position of the foot are commercially available. While the systems intended
for the hand are far from satisfactory and consequently seldom prescribed, the spastic
equinovarus correction by means of FES is a fairly efficient and frequently used method.
The so called FEPA (Functional Electronic Peroneal Apparatus) is available in several
embodiments. It is an orthotic aid which can be prescribed for permanent use.
Multichannel systems for surface FES are also developed for hemiparetic patients, but
their use is usually limited to the hospital environment for therapeutic training.
Nevertheless, it must be noted that in hemiplegic and severe hemiparetic patients FES
alone is not sufficient to enable the patients to walk and other techniques for locomotor
training must be tried. FES is one of many approaches in the treatment of these patients.
In children suffering from cerebral palsy, the application of FES is based onsimilar
principles as in adults. Considering the type of affliction, stimulation canbe performed
both in the hand and the leg. A frequent need for a bilateral stimulation of the peroneal
nerve is stated not only in children with diparesis but also in thosewith hemiparesis8. A
small child, however, can only be coaxed into allowing electrical stimulation through
playing. We usually do not use 1ES in children beforethird year of age. Electrical
stimulation should never be painful or unpleasant - rule to be observed also in the case
of adult patients, otherwise, there is no indication to apply it.
FES in patients with spinal cord lesions
In patients with an incomplete lesion of the spinal cord, gait is often characterised by
deficient bilateral dorsiflexion of the feet . In such cases, external control of the pretibial
muscles with FES of the peroneal nerve, applied uni- or bilaterally is indicated.
Sometimes one additional channel of stimulation of ankle plantar flexors can be added
for better push-off phase of the foot9. If the deficit is corrected by FES, patients are
prescribed a suitable stimulator for permanent use.
Complete paraplegics represent a much harder rehabilitation problem. In younger
patients with lower lesions, in good psychophysical condition, the goal canbe achieved
by mechanical braces for the lower extremities and walkers orcrutches. Most of the
patients, however, are bound to a wheelchair which they also use for moving around.
An alternative to such a solution is external movement control by means of FES. Back
in 1963, Kantrowitz described the possibility of strengthening completely paralysed
muscles in paraplegic patients by electrical stimulation IO Adequately strengthened
muscles, especially thigh quadricepses, are a prerequisite for using FES to get up and
maintain the upright position for a certain period of time. Standing in a paraplegic
subject can be achieved by bilateral stimulation of femoral nerve branches to cause
contractions of knee extensors. Since the performance of a step implies activation of
several muscle groups gait requires multichannel stimulation. A relatively simple and
efficient solution has been described by Ljubljana research team for FES in paraplegia.
A flexor response of the lower extremity during the swing phase is achieved by a single
stimulation channel above the peroneal nerve - a combination of efferent and afferent
stimulation . The stance phase of the lower extremity is maintained by means of efferent
stimulation of the knee extensors in the same way as at standing' I,12•A well trained
patient can, all by himself, trigger stimulation trains to one or the other lower extremity
by switches incorporated into the handles of the crutches or walker. Only rare paraplegics,
mostly younger patients with lesion in the mid thoracic segments and in good general
condition succeed to walk with F.ES at least for short distances. Otherwise, the main
kind of locomotion in paraplegic patients is still the use of wheelchairs.
In quadriparetic and quadriplegic patients yet an another problem is restoring the function
of affected upper extremities. Complicated movements, particularly those of hands,
require programmed multichannel stimulation. This is made all the more difficult in patients
with lesions of the cervical spinal cord. The paralysis of theirupper extremities is not
only of the central but frequently of the lower motor type. Hence it is difficult to obtain
tetanic contractions of proper strength. 'In the current stage of technology,satisfactory
functional movements of the hand can exceptionally be obtained in rare quadriplegic
Safety measures
Regarding the use of FES in practice, attention should be paid to the safety measures
taken in the choice of the electrodes, the parameters of electric impulses and the technique
of applying it onto the patient. Improper application of electric current isa possible
electric hazard. The density of electric current with respect of the type, size and position
of electrodes must be carefully considered to prevent burns and any other electric
danger. Each electromedical device together with its parts and accessories should be
always faultless .
Low frequency electrical stimulation is not always suitable for every patient with the
above mentioned diagnoses. There are also some contraindications, whichmust be
taken into account. In cardiac patients, also in those with cardiac pace-maker and in
pregnant women FES must not be used. In patients with myasthenia gravis neuromuscular
stimulation can cause exacerbation of the disease. Only the patients ingood general
condition without any severe concurrent disease are candidates for FES. Electrical
stimulation is not applicable in very small children and in persons, whose psychical state
prevent them from collaborating in the treatment. Candidates for FES should be also
without contracture, severe osteoporosis, any signs of local and/orgeneral inflammations,
infections, malignant tumours and other complications. All other safety measures for
low frequency electrotherapy must be also taken into consideration.
The proper positioning of stimulating electrodes is alsovery important to prevent some
disturbing side effects of electric current. Incorrect application of FES neglecting some
contraindications considerably increases electrical hazard . For the use of FES it is not
sufficient to buy the stimulator and to apply it to the patient. Special educational seminars
for application of FES are necessary to therapists. Careful instructions and the training
under the control of experienced therapists must be given to the patients, to enable
them for the proper use. Specialised service for repairs must also be at disposal for
long-term use of electrical stimulators.
We must say, that there are limitations of the use of FES regarding the present technology.
We are able to carry out relatively simple movements of extremities for functional
purposes with the current equipment . But on the other side, there are also advantages
of the treatment with FES, in comparison to classic orthotic appliances commonly used
to improve function of paralysed extremities. FES enables active use of patients' own
muscles, even if artificially stimulated with some beneficial effects 14. We consider
FES is one of various additional methods used to help the patients to achieve better
Liberson WT, Holmquest HJ, Scot D, Dow M. Functional electrotherapy -Stimulation of
the peroneal nerve synchronized with the swing phase of the gait of hemiplegic patient.
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Moe JH and Post HW. Functional electrical stimulation for ambulation in hemiplegia.
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Dimitrijeviè MR, Graèanin F, Prevec T, Trontelj J. Electronic control of paralysed extremities.
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Vodovnik L, Valenèiè V. Strojnik P, Kiun B, tefanèiè M, JelnikarT. Improvement of some
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the use of functional electrical stimulation in paraplegia. Electromyography and Clinical
Neurophysiology 1986; 26: 423.
Kralj A, Bajd T. Safety measures in applying electrical stimulators. In Functional electrical
stimulation of extremities. J. Stefan Institute, Ljubljana, 1983:123.
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Integrating traumatic brain injury rehabilitation into multidisability
community based rehabilitation programmes
Maya Thomas, M. J. Thomas
The paper attempts to provide some guidelines to evolve a national policy for the
rehabilitation of the people with traumatic brain injury (TB1) in India., within the framework
of the existing rehabilitation policies in the country. Since the emphasis of the paper is
on rehabilitation, issues related to acute care of TBI are notdealt with. What is attempted
is the possible integration of the needs of people with TBI into the ongoing community
based rehabilitation (CBR) plans and programmes in the country, keeping in mind the
need for realistic planning, effective coverage and affordable costs.
According to one global estimate of the causes of disability', trauma and injury account
for 15% of people with moderate and severe disability. In the United States,it is
reported that 5,00,000 to 1.5 million people suffer head injuries each year, with 50,00070,000 persons suffering moderate to severe injuries 2 The peak incidence is between
the ages of 15 and 24, and it is 2-3 times more in males than females. In theUnited
Kingdom, the reported prevalence of significant disability is about 0.3% . World-
wide, the available epidemiological data relating to TBI seems to be inadequate. In the
U.K., noational planning to address neurological rehabilitation began to beaddressed
as late as 19923. In the U.S., more attention was focused onrehabilitation of TBI form
the I 980s. According to the National Head Injury Foundation of U.S., the number of
programmes for people with head injury went up from 40 in 1980 tom 700 in 1988 2
Even so, the Foundation estimation that less than 10% of patientswith moderate and
severe injuries get adequate rehabilitation services.
In India, statistics relating to the prevalence and incidence of TBI are sketchy, and
largely derived from police records and reports in the print media. Efforts towards
planning and establishing rehabilitation services for such patients are quite inadequate.
Even though the exact magnitude of the problem in the country is not known,it is
necessary to recognise that disabilities caused by traumaand injury are likely to increase.
In a recent newspaper article, it was reported that the number of accidents in just one
highway in Karnataka State rose from 346 in 1991 to 420 in 1993. More alarming,
between January to March of 1994, the number sputed to 255g. All these are pointers
that the number of people with TB! may be large enough to warrant planning for
rehabilitation services for this group in an organised fashion.
The importance of rehabilitation for persons with TB! cannot be overly emphasised,
especially since a majority of these individuals are in the younger, more productive age
group. Rehabilitation measures aimed at reducing disabilities and handicaps, and restoring
of functional abilities to the extent possible would beneffit the individual, and also help
to reduce the burdens on the family, on the community and at a larger level, on the
nation's scarce resources. In order to achieve the goals of better long-term outcome in
rehabilitation, there is increasing recognition of the need for a co-ordinated multidisciplinary approach in relation to TB!. Such an approach can contribute towards
better functioning off the individual, shorter hospitalisation and reduction of secondary
complications. All these can produce significant cost savings for health. Besides, with
the more recent methods such as cognitive rehabilitation programmes for TB!, the
effectiveness of the rehabilitation effort may be markedly improved, as compared to
earlier2. Considering all these issues, the need for, and the value of, rehabilitation for
people with TB! in !ndia comes out clearly as a priority to be addressed.
Following the UN Declarations of 1981 as the International Year of Disabled Persons,
and 1983-1992 as the !nternational Decade of Disabled People, many developing
countries including India have formulated their policies in rehabilitation. As in other
developing countries, rehabilitaion services in India had been mainly institution based
and urban centred, with hardly 3% of those in need of services able to have access to
them. The trend is now changing, with the promotion of various rehabilitation
programmes by the Government and non-Governmental organisations (NGO's). There
is now a shift in emphasis towards universal coverage of services and decentralisation
of planning to involve local communities. Alongside it has been recognised that many
institution based services, which have a longer history, have developed into high cost
programmes with problems of mounting staff costs, wastage of manpower and low
efficiency of services. As a consequence, the community based rehabilitation (CBR)
approach is viewed as a possible cost efficient alternative to rehabilitation institutions .
The last decade and a half have witnessed the growth of the CBR approach in India.
The principles of coverage, integration and self reliance are common to most CBR
programmes in India, but the way they are translated into action would differ from
community to community, because of the differing social, economic and cultural factors
which can influence CBR programmes. Therefore, there is no universal model of CBR
which is applicable across the country. The disabilities which have been accorded
priority for support are loco-motor disabilities, visual disabilities, communication
disabilities and mental handicap, with emphasis on childhood disability, early identification
and intervention. The approach to rehabilitation is an integrated, multi-sectorial one,
which includes interventions in education (special, integrated, non-formal), medical
rehabilitation, vocational training and income generation,social rehabilitation and
awareness building and prevention.
The involvement of the families and communities in the programmes is emphasised, as
also the need for good referral systems and back-up support from existing facilities.
The Government of India, under the Ministry of Welfare, launched the District
Rehabilitation Centre (DRC) scheme in 1985, in an effort to provide community based
services to disabled people in rural areas 6• This scheme which was started in 11
districts, is based on the pnnciplesof the primary health care system,and has a structure
which is similar and parallel to the district health services. Services are provided at
various levels, depending on the size of the target population covered, from the village
rehabilitation worker upwards through the primary health centre rehabilitation unit, to
the District Rehabilitation Centre at the District headquarters. The Regional Rehabilitation
Training Centre (RRTC), which are 4 in number, provide the training inputs, with support
from the National Institute. The DRC schemes are supervised by a Central Administrative
and Co-Ordinating Unit, based in Delhi. Many NGOs have initiated CBR programmes
as well, covering smaller populations and fewer villages, but in tandem with the principles
mentioned earlier. The services are programme activities are based in the community
and carried out by families and other non-professional staff drawn from the same
communities, under the guidance of specialists/professionals. The Government has
plans to increase the coverage of the DRCs to many more districts in the coming years,
in collaboration with NGOs.
The major advantage of the DRC scheme in planning for rehabilitation of TBI is its
location which is administratively:and geographically close to the district health services
schemd. In such a case, it is relatively easy to shift a patient with TBI from the curative
system, i.e., the district hospital, to the rehabilitative system, i.e.the DRC, to continue
with the post-acute rehabilitative care. This is possible, provided there are well established
referral channels between the two systems. With regard to acute care, it is recognised
that the need is great and that presetit facilities are not adequate to deal with the problem
effectively. The possibility of having specialists in neurological sciences at the district
health services level may need to be considered, so that specialist acute care is made
available to larger numbers of people requiring them. Better quality and bettercoverage
can be achieved, at costs which may not be very high, through such decentralisation.
Planning for rehabilitation would also be made easier, since the DRCs arepresent at
the district headquarters level and can be involved from the acute care stage onwards.
A multidisciplinary rehabilitation team which is necessary for TBI rehabilitation, and
many of whom are already available at the DRC, can be utilised more effectively from
the outset. At the DRC level, the existing staff would
require additional training inputs
in relation to TBI, such as specialised skills like cognitive remediation, dealing with
adults more than children, and more emphasis on vocational training than education.
Following the acute care phase, most people with TBI today return to theirfamilies,
with no formal rehabilitation programmes beingplanned for them. In most cases, the
families carry out some form of spontaneous rehabilitation at home, with the little
knowledge at their disposal. What they need are the technical skills to upgrade the
quality of home and community based care and rehabilitation. This is where the
rehabilitation workers of existing CBRprogrammes can play a role. These workers
can follow up peoplewith TBI right from the time ofdischarge from the acute care
facility, down to the home level in the communities. Theycan provide the necessary
technical skills to the families and thereby improve the quality of care. What is required
are the necessary training-inputs for the village workers, to take on TBI rehabilitation
into their ongoing portfolio of responsibilities. However, certain factors need to be
kept in mind in promoting CBR for people with TBI, which set them apart from people
with other disabilities; people with TBI are usually from the productive, active, younger
adult age group who previously led "normal" lives; thedisability is sudden in onset; they
are likely to have multiple disabilities, including cognitive, behavioural and emotional
deficits; the sequelae of TBI require long term ediationwouinterventions; newer specialist
techniques such as cognitive remediation would be necessary; family counselling and
supports need greater attention, as would the economic, social, psychological, and
emotional implications.
The possibility of using family members as therapists may also need to be explored.
This may be more feasible in India, with itslargely intact extended family networks and
social support systems. Issues to be examined are the ability and willingness of the
rehabilitation workers and the families ofpeople with TBI to absorb the new skills
needed; and the question of what degree of severity of the disability can be managed
adequately at the peripheral level and by the families. Itmay not be possible for all
people with TBI to benefit from such programmes, but at least in some cases, the
quality of care can be improved, with little additional costs. Promoting of self help
groups of families and of people with TB! at the community, also needs tobe encouraged,
along with associations of people with TB!, to promote independent living and self
empowerment. These groups would also need to be supported in advocacy efforts to
bring about changes in their environment and to reduce the handicaps they face in daily
Since rehabilitation of people with TB! is relatively new in India, there are certain
important issues to be addressed for the rehabilitation effort to be successful.
It may be necessary to include TBI rehabilitation into the curriculum in medical
schools and training institutes for therapists, psychologists, social workers, CBR
workers and other rehabilitation personrtel.
b) Additing TB! rehabilitation as a subject in existing information and resources centres
at different levels - national, regional, community - would be of help to those
involved in rehabilitation care, including families.
Existing centres for aids, appliances and adaptive equipment will need to be oriented
towards the needs of people with TB! as well.
d) More attention needs to be focused on research on different aspects of TB!,
starting with epidemiology and going on to factors influencing long term outcomes
in rehabilitation.
Therre is the need to develop policies and legislation at the national level, with
particular reference to prevention of TB!, improved facilities for acute care and
The rehabilitation scenario in India is an evolving one. The efforts of the Government
and NGOs as of today are to improve coverage and facilitate integration of all disabled
persons in the community. Since the incidence of TB! is likely to increase in the future
and since it is likely to contribute to the increased incidence of disabilities in the country,
it is important for planners and policy makers to recognise the importance of the
rehabilitation effort in making people with TB! productive members of society to the
extent possible. It is also necessary to consider that such rehabilitation efforts can be
integrated into the framework of the existing rehabilitation plans at a slight extra cost,
without the necessity of setting up new systems and infrastructure. It may be worthwhile
for some of the existing CBR programmes to take on TBI rehabilitation as part of their
existing programmes.
Helander E. Prejudice and dignity: An introduction to community based rehabilitation.
UNDP interregional programme for disabled people Geneva 1993.
Kreutzer JS, Wehman P ( eds ). Community integration following traumatic brain injury.
Hodder and Stoughton Pennsylvania 1990.
Association of British Neurologists, Neuroconcern group of Medical charities, British
society for rehabilitation medicine.Neurological rehabilitation in united kingdom - Report
of a working party. United Kingdom 1992.
The Hindu 9 July 1994.
Thomas M.Community based rehabilitation - What do we understand by it. Actionaid
Disability News 1990; 1(1).
Pandey RS. Advani L. Perspectives in disability and rehabilitation. Vikas Publishing house
New Delhi 1995.
Benefits for the disabled in India
There are various schemes for the disabled under ministry of welfare, Government of
India. In December 1996 Indian Parliament passed the "Persons with disabilities" (equal
opportunities protection of rights and full participation) act. The aim of this legislation is
to remove all discriminations against disabled persons and integrate them into the
mainstream of society. This act provides legal protection, education, employment and
affirmative action for the disabled. This bill also defines disability and eligibility for benefits.
Eligibifity: Indian citizens with blindness, low vision, hearing impairment, locomotion
disability, mental retardation and mental illness and disfigurement due to leprosy are the
beneficiaries of this act. A person with disability is defined as one suffering from not less
than 40% of any of the disability as certified by a medical authority.
Prevention and early detection : According to this act the Government and local
authorities are obliged to undertake surveys, research and investigations in the field of
disability limitation and prevention. The public should be educated through mass media
about the causes and consequences of disabilities, methods of prevention and facilities
available for the disabled.
Education : The disabled children are entitled for free education, transport, books,
uniforms and equipment needed for education till the age of 18 years. The Government
should provide and promote special schools and vocational training facilities for the
Employment: Three percent reservation is provided for persons with disabilities. 1%
each for subjects with blindness, hearing impairment and locomotion disability. Inter
change of reservation among these three categories in the absence of suitable candidate
under any one head is possible. If the vacancies are not filled up they shall be carried
forward to next recruitment. There are 23 special employment exchanges, 55special
cells and 17 vocational rehabilitation centres for catering to the employment needs of
the disabled.
Affirmative action: This act allows Government to allot land at confessional ratefor
the house, business,special recreational centres, special schools, research centres and
factories for the di1ed, There are also schemes to provide aids and appliances to
persons with disabilities
Non-discrimination : The act guarantees non-discrimination of disabled individuals in
transport, employment and public buildings. Rail compartments, buses, aircraft, ships
and boats must be designed to permit easy access to wheel chairs users. All the public
places and waiting rooms should have toilets designed for the use of the disabled. The
building rules must be amended to make ramps for wheel chairs users mandatory.
Braille symbols and auditoiy signals must be provided in lifts and elevators. No employee
can be dismissed or demoted for the reason of disability. He can be shifted to some
other position with same pay and service conditions. No promotions can be denied
because of disability.
Research and manpower development : National level institutions are established
for research, manpower development, dissemination of information, documentation and
model service for disabled. They include:
National Institute of Orthopedically handicapped, Calcutta,
National Institute for Mentally Handicapped, Secunderabad,
National Institute for Visually Handicapped, Dehradun,
National Institute for Hearing Handicapped, Bombay,
Institute for Physically Handicapped, New Delhi,
National Institute for RehabilitationTraining and Research, Cuttack and
Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation of India, Kanpur
Assistance to Non-Government Organisation (NGOs) : There are various schemes
under ministry of welfare to provide assistance to NGOs for detection and prevention
of disabilities, education, motivation and vocational training of disabled, and physical,
psychological, economic and social rehabilitation of the disabled. Up to 90% of the
expenditure is provided as grant-in-aid. There are separate schemes for assistance of
organisations for rehabilitation of the field of cerebral palsy and mental retardation,
voluntary organisations for rehabilitation of leprosy cured persons, special schools for.
the disabled and for distribution of aids and appliances.
District Rehabilitation Centre Scheme : The aim of this scheme is to provide
community based rehabilitation services and manpower development for service delivery
to disabled. Eleven district rehabilitation centres and four regional rehabilitation training
centres have been established under this scheme. Four regional training centres are
located at Lucknow, Cuttack, Madras and Bombay.
National awards scheme: On the occasion of uWorId disabled day" on third sunday
of march president of India gives National awards to
Best employer of handicapped,
Best individual working forhandicapped welfare,
Best institution working for handicapped welfare,
Best placement officers and
National technology awards for welfare of handicapped.
Best handicapped employee and self employed,
Travel : Railways provide 75% concession in basic fare for disabled persons and
escorts. Indian Airlines allows 50% concession fare to blind persons on single journey.
Postage : Blind literature packets weighing less than 7 Kg is exempted from both
inland and foreign postal charges.
Customs and excise duties : Braille paper and audiocassette for the blind impcrtcd
by specified organ isations are exempted from customs duty.
Allowances : All central government employees who are blindor orthopedically
handicapped are granted conveyance allowance at 5% of basic pay subject to a maximum
of Rs. 100. Tuition fees of physically and mentally retarded children of centralgovernment
employees up to Rs.50 are reimbursed by the state.
Income tax concession : An amount of Rs. 20,0000 can be deducted fromthe total
income ofa person with disability, preventing them fromengaging in gainful employment.
Award of dealership by Oil companies Ministry ofpetroleum and Natural Gas has
reserved 7.5% of all dealerships for orthopedically and visuallyhandicapped persons.
Postings : Physically handicapped candidates should be posted as far as possible,
near their native places. Request for transfers by physically handicapped persons are
given preference by Central Government.
Economic assistance by public sector bank : All physically handicapped persons
and institutions working for the disabled are eligible for loans at 5% interest rate. A
subsidy of 50% up to a maximum of Rs 5,000 only is also possible.
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